Combining Online and Traditional Methods for Streamlined Tenant Screening
Tenant screening is tedious, but it is one of the most important processes of renting property. The quality of your tenants can make or break the rental experience. A bad tenant can seriously damage your income, or your real estate property, and put you through hours of hassle and worry. You will always be concerned about rent payments and property upkeep, and no one wants to have to undergo an eviction. Choosing tenants requires care and effort – but time is money. There is a delicate balance between ensuring you get a quality tenant and wasting time looking at too many applications too thoroughly.
Online tenant screening services can speed up the process by doing online searches and accessing databases much faster than humans can. However, these online services cannot show you everything about an applicant, and many are not as great as they are advertised. The two components of effective tenant screening are:
- Choosing a good screening service
- Learning about applicants personally
While a trustworthy screening service will save you time, there are still a handful of traditional methods that offer invaluable information about prospects.
Finding a Quality Screening Service
The most important information you will get from an online service is a background check. The main role screening services play is scanning databases to get a summary of the applicant’s rental, financial, and even criminal history. These are the key aspects to consider when choosing an online service:
- FCRA certification: The Fair Credit Reporting Act outlines laws protecting the privacy rights of tenants, so you need to make sure the service you use complies with these laws or is FCRA certified.
- Instant results can have errors: If the screening claims to produce background checks instantly, then there is no system in place for checking the information, and you are bound to get errors or miss critical data in the report.
- Eviction data: If a screening service charges more for eviction data by state or nationwide, this is a huge red flag. Additionally, you want the report to show all eviction filings, not just eviction judgements.
- Tenant involvement: This depends on personal preference, some landlords like to involve the tenant in the screening because this gives them a level of responsibility to complete the screening form, while others prefer zero tenant involvement for the convenience.
Getting to Know the Applicants
Learning about the applicants first-hand is still a critical part of the screening process. The best way to do so is with the following tips:
- Call their employers and other references: Talking to people who know the applicant, especially employers, will give you a strong picture of who the tenant is and how responsible they are.
- Don’t be afraid to ask questions throughout the screening process: Get to know prospects when they first call. Ask them about their income and why they are moving. You may reveal information that rules out the prospect right then.
- Meet prospects in person to verify their identity before giving a property tour: This protects your safety and the security of the property’s current tenants.
Other Tips to Make Screening Efficient
Beyond the guidelines listed above, there are steps you can take to minimize the hassle of tenant screening:
- Targeted marketing: Limiting the number of applications you receive in the first place will save you time and money. Make your property listing and marketing as accurately targeted as possible, so you get just a few applicants who are more likely to be suitable for the property.
- Charge an application fee: Requiring an application fee limits the applicants to those who are serious about renting the property.
- If the prospect is interested, go over a summary of lease terms and rules during the tour: This will also help to eliminate unqualified applicants.
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