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How to Properly Screen Potential Tenants

Nov 7, 2022 | 0 comments

As a landlord, having prospective tenants want to live in your unit is only half the work when looking to match someone to your rental property. When searching for tenants to fill your rental unit, it is normal to want to lease it out quickly to avoid loss in ROI. However, it is important to have a tenant you can trust. That’s why the tenant screening process is crucial to ensure harmony in your rental home, not only for yourself, but for your other tenants. 

Screening Tenants

A quality renter is someone who is respectful and able to pay rent on time. There are five major questions to watch out for when conducting tenant screening

  1. Is the tenant able to afford rent?
  2. Does the tenant have a stable job?
  3. Does the tenant have good references with past landlords?
  4. Does the tenant have a clean criminal record?
  5. Is the tenant responsible? 


Before meeting any potential tenants, you have to understand what your criteria for a good long term renter are. Start by making a list of all the things you expect in a tenant. You should make it clear if you will allow them to have pets, how many tenants can occupy the unit, what their responsibilities are in maintaining the unit. You can relay this information to potential renters so there is no confusion or misinformation. 

writing out questions for a tenant interview

This list should include questions that you will ask during interviews. By having questions prepared you will quickly be able to spot renters who don’t align with what you’re looking for. By being prepared, you will save time and find the right person for your rental more quickly. 

Interviewing the Tenant

When speaking with the prospective tenant, make sure you ask all the questions you feel necessary. Allow for the tenant to ask their own questions as well. This will help ensure that you are both on the same page and understand the expectations on both ends. Understanding your client is a great way to build good landlord tenant relationships. 

Reviewing the Rental Application

The rental application is where all the information about the tenant needs to go. Before meeting prospective tenants, it is necessary to have this form ready for them to fill out. It should include sections where they can fill out their contact information, present address, present landlord information, job and salary. 

Their annual income should be about three times the annual rent. This is how you know they will be financially able to pay the rent. 

someone counting their money

It is also necessary to get their permission to run background checks on this application. Without the ability to run a background check on the tenant you won’t be able to know if they have a criminal history. It is risky to rent to people with criminal backgrounds since you cannot guarantee the safety of your investment, your other tenants, or yourself. 

Verify Income and Employment

Once you have the required information, it is important to check that the prospective tenant is being completely honest with you. Checking their references assures that the tenant isn’t trying to pass fake references off as real ones. 

Tenants who do not have the jobs or salaries they say they do are most likely not going to be able to pay rent or have something else they’re trying to hide. 

Speaking to Landlords

When collecting references for a possible tenant, a great tip is to speak to not only their current landlord, but their past landlords as well. Their current landlord might have motivations to get rid of the tenant if they do not get along, or if the tenant is rude, doesn’t follow the lease agreement, or doesn’t pay rent on time. The current landlord might lie in order to get rid of them. 

two people sitting discussing a tenant

While a past landlord has no reason to lie. You are more likely to get an honest response from a landlord who has nothing to gain or lose from the tenant moving out. This can also help you uncover if the tenant was previously evicted. 

Accepting or Declining the Renter

When you’ve made your decision about whether or not you will accept or deny the renter it is highly recommended to put it in writing. Emailing the tenant your answer is the best way to convey this information. You could also call them, but to avoid any confusion or miscommunication, it is best to have the agreement in writing as well. 

When deciding who to accept and who to deny it is required by law to respect the fair housing act. It is illegal to discriminate against a tenant based on race, sex, or familial status.

Once you have found the tenant you want to occupy your rental unit, you should arrange a time for them to sign a written rental agreement and move into the unit. 

Final Notes

Screening and choosing a tenant for your unit can be a difficult and time consuming experience. If you want help managing your rental property Embark PM can assist with every aspect of managing your investment, including tenant screening. Contact us for professional advice regarding managing your property today!



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