How To Screen Prospective Tenants

Finding qualified tenants for your rental property requires patience, due diligence, and careful decision making. Here are some steps that you can take to ensure that you find the best renters possible and avoid unwittingly starting a problem tenancy.

Ask the Right Questions

You’re eager to learn all about your new potential tenants, but you need to bear in mind that there are some questions that you shouldn’t ask. It’s best to not ask questions about their ages, disabilities, or other constitutionally protected characteristics in order to follow best practices in avoiding rental discrimination claims. Instead of asking about somebody’s family composition or marital status, frame the question in terms of occupancy. Focus your questions on living routines, schedules, and physical needs.

Search Applicants’ Rental History

You want to find out if your applicants have had a consistent track record as a renter or if they have previously been evicted for nonpayment or occupancy violations. Search an eviction database to determine if they’ve previously been to housing court or have ever been evicted.

Verify Applicants’ Income

Use a background service that will confirm employment and salary information, or simply ask your applicant to complete a written employment verification form where their employer can fill in their contact information. You shouldn’t rely on what someone says they earn. Request concrete information like employment verification, W-2, or pay stubs.

Check Applicants’ Credit Scores

Have your applicants sign a release and supply you with any necessary information to access their consumer credit score and consumer credit report from all three reporting bureaus. Applicants’ credit history will give you good insight about their payment histories on individual accounts, outstanding debt, and spending habits.

Ask for References

Asking applicants for references from their prior landlords will help to give you a sense of what they were like as tenants, whether they made their rental payments consistently and on time and what kind of condition they left the property in. A firsthand account from someone who has previously had a landlord-tenant relationship with an applicant is a good way to get a clearer picture of his or her strengths and weaknesses.

Following smart and thorough screening practices will help you to identify the right tenants for your vacant rental property. Asking applicants targeted questions and seeking out information from an eviction database, credit reporting agencies, and prior landlords will enable you to make a well-informed decision about starting a tenancy.

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