Setting your Property Up for Success: How to Properly Screen Tenants
Screening is the first step in determining whether or not a prospective tenant is a good fit for your rental property. Implementing effective and thorough screening practices can minimize future risks and help ensure the success and profitability of your investment.
1. Set minimum standards and requirements
If the rental application is pre-screening, then consider the rental posting to be pre-pre-screening. When listing your property for rent, alongside the detailed description of the home and neighborhood, you should also include minimum standards and expectations. This can include objections to smoking, or pets, or ensuring that the tenant has at least six months of income verification or the first and last month’s rent, etc. These pre-stated requirements will save you time and resources in sorting through a ton of applications that may or may not meet the standards.
2. Require Completed rental application
A comprehensive rental application can act as a pre-screening tool to further determine who is suitable to rent your property. Every application should require key pieces of information that allow the landlord to further assess the prospective tenant, including:
- Personal contact information
- First and last name, phone number, email, and current address
- Employment history
- Proof of Income
- Rental History
- past landlord and employer
- Consent for credit and background check
- Any necessary additional information
- Pets, vehicles, property accessibility, etc.
3. Credit check, background check, rental history check
Having a credit report is an important resource that provides information on the tenant’s financial standing to ensure that they can be trusted to not only pay rent but also pay rent on time. Background checks are an essential step in determining whether or not the tenant is a good fit based on criminal history. You never want to place your property or neighbors at risk by skipping this step. Of course, when reviewing criminal records, some are less severe than others and should hold no bearing on their ability to be a responsible and reliable tenant, so always review on a case-by-case basis so that everyone is given a fair chance. A rental history check will give you insight as to whether they have faced prior eviction, left the home damaged, or were consistently late on rent. Negative feedback on any of these can be an indicator that the tenant is not the right fit, so research thoroughly with the help of an online screening service or a trusted property management company.
4. Speak with a Current Employer and Landlord
Speaking with the current employer and landlord can be a good way to gather information and ensure that the prospective tenant is reliable and responsible. These conversations can offer insight into how your relationship with this tenant may look like in the future. Have they received multiple noise complaints from neighbors? Do they pay rent on time? Do they take care of their current rental home? These are appropriate questions to ask in order to have peace of mind that you are selecting the right candidate.
5. Always Comply with Fair Housing Laws
It’s essential to have an understanding of the federal, state, and local fair housing laws and adhere to the guidelines set in The Fair Housing Act in order to avoid any discriminatory actions. This act ensures that all applicants are treated fairly and prohibits discrimination in housing regardless of:
- Familial status
- National origin
Your screening questions should be legal, objective, and consistent across all applications and interviews. Familiarize yourself with these laws and guidelines to ensure that all applicants are given the same opportunity.