How to Screen Tenants: A Guide to Getting the Best Renters for Your Property
Did you know that over 100 million Americans were renting in 2016?
This figure is great news for landlords all across the United States looking to earn an extra income by renting out their properties. But bad tenants are bad for business and can cause more problems than they solve, so how do you ensure you find good tenants?
Keep reading to find out everything you need to know about how to screen tenants and do essential background checks.
How to Screen Tenants in 5 Simple Steps
Checking out a tenant is a crucial part of finding the appropriate person to rent your property to. Some people prefer to let letting agencies deal with this because it’s easier while other people prefer to screen tenants themselves, as this saves money.
If you want to save some money and screen a tenant yourself, here is what you need to do:
1. Ask for a Rental Application
Ask prospective tenants who are interested in renting your property to provide you with a rental application. You might be able to find a rental application template online or at a local real estate association. Alternatively, you might choose to make your own.
Rental applications cover the vital information that you need to know before you take on a tenant, such as a tenant’s financial, employment, and personal information.
The application could have questions about their:
- current and/or previous employment history
- current income
- other financial information (such as bank accounts and credit cards)
- information of previous places the tenant has lived and contact information for the landlord
- personal information (for example, if the tenant has any pets and how many people will be living in the rental property)
- and references of people who can vouch for the tenant.
Once you get the form back from prospective tenants, make sure you check that they filled everything in. If they haven’t filled everything in, ask them why there are any blanks. Missing information could be a sign that the tenant is trying to hide something.
2. Check Their Credit History
One of the biggest worries a landlord faces is their tenants not paying rent. But this simple screening step can eliminate that concern altogether. Before you find the right tenant, make sure you check out their credit history.
Some states allow landlords to charge a prospective tenant for the cost of this check. While other states require the landlord to pay for it, but the expenditure is worth it.
A credit report and score will show you:
- if they’ve had any late payments
- their credit card payments
- and any financial issues such as bankruptcy.
You’ll also be able to see if the tenant has any debt. This may help to indicate whether or not the tenant will be able to make regular rent payments.
3. How to Do a Background Check on a Tenant
Running a background check on a tenant is a good way to find out who will be living in your property.
If you’re wondering how to run a background check on a tenant, you can get in touch with companies who specialize in these types of checks. The checks will cost you, but you’ll receive their public records, eviction history, and criminal history.
Prospective tenants who have evictions or criminal records might be unreliable and dangerous. However, you might want to give the tenant a chance to explain themselves or give them a chance if the criminal record was for minor offenses when they were young.
4. Contact the Tenant’s Employer and Previous Landlord
The best way to find out if a tenant is reliable is to ask those they know. Contact the potential tenant’s employer and verify their income and reliability.
However, not all employers can provide information about the tenant’s income or other private information, but the employer will be able to verify if the tenant works there.
Another person to contact is the previous landlord of the tenant. Most landlords will ask if the tenant pays their rent and to confirm that the tenant is moving out.
You could also ask about the tenant’s lifestyle, including any debts or damage they’ve caused to the property. You could also inquire about any complaints from neighbors or whether the tenant is getting the full security deposit back when they move out.
5. Interview the Tenant
Another way you can tell if the tenant is right for your rental property is by giving them a quick interview. This could either be a quick call before they come and view the property, or you could ask them questions as they look around.
After all the checks have been done, this interview is just a chance for you to find out a little more about them. You might want to ask the tenant if they have any pets, if they plan on getting a roommate, what their working hours are, if they smoke, or if they plan on having friends or family stay over.
These simple lifestyle questions will help you to understand who the tenant is and whether they are the right fit for you and your property. It’s also a chance for you to go over the rules. For example, if they smoke then you might want to remind the tenant that your property is smoke-free and that they’ll have to smoke outside.
Although the above screening process is fairly straightforward, it does take time. Luckily there’s another way you can find a tenant faster and start earning money sooner, by recruiting a rental property management company to do it for you.
Find Your Dream Tenants
We’ve all heard nightmare stories about tenants damaging rental properties and not paying rent, but with the right screening process you should be able to avoid these situations. Implement the tips in our guide on how to screen tenants and find your dream tenants today.
If you found this article insightful, be sure to have a look at some of our other articles.