Finding The Right Tenants: 4 Screening Tips

tenant screening

Screening potential tenants is the most important thing you can do as a landlord. Every problem during a lease can be traced back to your screening process.  If you are lax on your screening you will let many more bad tenants slip through the cracks.  Tenant screening is not like opening up an investigation.  In most cases there are glaring red flags that you will find with even the most basic tenant screening.  The problem for most landlords is that they are under pressure to find a new tenant as quickly as possible and let many simply screening steps slide.  This opens the door to renting to people you may normally pass on.  Once a bad tenant is in your property you are stuck with them for at least nine months or until they stop paying their rent.  While you can never guarantee a good tenant proper tenant screening gives you the best possible chance.  Here are four tenant screening tips to help find the best possible tenant.

  • Gather Information On Initial Phone Call. There are several different methods for marketing your property and finding tenants. One of the keys to finding good tenants is giving yourself plenty of time before the end of the lease. The closer you are to the lease end the harder it is to stay disciplined. However you plan on finding tenants the first step in the process is the initial communication. You need to get as much information as possible from the first contact. If your tenant emails you should ask if there is a number you can talk to them. Once you have them on the phone you should ask about their goals, desires and timeframes for their next rental property. They will surely have questions about the property but how they answer your questions is a good indicator of whether or not they are a good fit. Don’t be afraid to ask why they are looking to rent and the situation they are coming from. You can’t tell everything about a tenant from the first contact but both sides will get a good idea of whether or not they want to move forward based on the initial conversation.
  • Application. If there is mutual interest in the property the next step is to pass along an application. The application is your opportunity to ask any relevant questions you like. There are many landlords who bypass the application process if there is interest because the potential tenant seems like a good person. There are many good people who make terrible tenants. If you do not have an application completed you are doing yourself a major disservice. Your application needs to include information regarding current employment, rental history, income information, criminal acts and anything else pertinent to the property. If the tenant balks at providing this information you can assume there is something they don’t want to disclose. Whatever is listed on the application is there for you to evaluate and decide if you want to move forward. Without an application you are basically taking your tenant on their word and relying on blind faith.
  • Follow Up On Application. Reviewing the information on the application is not enough. You need to be proactive and do everything you can do ensure you have the right information. Start by reaching out to any past landlords listed. You should find out if they are in any way related to the tenant and if there was ever a problem at any time during the lease. Most tenants start renting with a family member or friend so their opinion will obviously be a little skewed. You should also reach out to the employer listed on the application. Find out how long they have worked there and the likelihood of continued employment. Some landlords will go so far as to have the credit report pulled. This will give you a broad picture of their payment history and any derogatory account. You have the right to follow up with any item listed on the application and even some that are not. Following up gives you the opportunity to hear answers to the questions you desire and make the best decision to who you will rent to.
  • Walk Through/Showings. The screening process does not stop at the application. Your prospective tenant should have a good idea of the property based on pictures or videos you sent them. The showing should simply be a confirmation of what they have already seen. However the property showing can give you a good idea on whether or not they really want the property. If they are want to get out of the house after a few minutes it is a sign their interest is only lukewarm. You should also be alert for any tenant who asks a million questions. Asking questions itself is fine but if they are asking for items that are not on the lease or asking you to bend the rules it is time to move on. In a perfect world your tenant will want to sign the lease and write a security check as soon as possible. If they are not willing to set a firm date you have a problem. You can tell the tenants that genuinely like the property and want to live there. These are the tenants that will pay on time and take care of your property. This is what you should be looking for during your property showings.

Taking a few extra screening steps can make all the difference between a good tenant and one that is a problem.