Why Screen Tenants?
With the risk of incurring bad tenants, there is no such thing as being too cautious when deciding who will rent your property. In fact, landlords should always screen unknown applicants as a way to minimize future income loss and protect their property against damage.
Follow these 3 easy steps when screening potential tenants:
Approach the selection process like an employer would a job interview and meet with the prospective tenant face-to-face. You will receive an impression from the moment you shake hands. Make note of any verbal or non-verbal cues that could provide insight into their character and trustworthiness.
2. Ask Them to Fill Out a Rental Application
Once you have shown the applicant the premises and they are interested, ask that they fill out a Rental Application.
The Rental Application allows you to collect their information before entering into a Lease Agreement. It includes information such as:
• Contact info; name, phone number
• Rental History
• Employment Details
If the candidate refuses to complete the Rental Application, the landlord has the right to deny them as tenants. Also, any intentional mistakes, illegible writing or blank spaces may point to a red flag. Look over the application before they leave and ask for clarification on answers that are unclear or incomplete.
3. Verify Their Information
Most landlords agree that doing a credit check and reviewing a tenant’s employment history ensures they have stable income to pay rent. Additionally, landlords should try to connect with a former landlord (or two) as reference to a tenant’s previous rental behavior.
While landlords are free to rent to who they wish, their decisions must be based on sound screening criteria relating to whether or not the tenant would fulfill their renting responsibilities, such as:
• Credit history
• Reference checks
Fair Housing Laws state that discrimination on the basis of race, religion, gender, family status or disability cannot factor into screening. To avoid any such lawsuits, treat every applicant equally and be consistent in your screening process.
Quick Screening Tips
• Always have prospective tenants fill out a Rental Application form.
• Check tenant credit history, references and employment. You cannot deny someone solely on the basis of no rental history.
• Trust your intuition. If the renter gives you a dishonest impression, beyond nerves, this can probably be verified in their application. Don’t be afraid to explore other prospects.
• Start screening tenants in your ad by including some of the qualities you would or wouldn’t like in a tenant. For example: Quiet, non-smoker, no pets.
Your goal is to find a responsible tenant who will pay their rent. Think of screening as an insurance policy. By filtering out bad tenants in the beginning, you will save yourself time and money in the long run.