The Ultimate Tenant Screening Checklist for Landlords

  • Apr 23, 2024
  • 6 min read
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If you’ve ever owned a rental property, chances are good that you had something go horribly wrong with a tenant at some point because it was a bad fit. The solution, however, isn’t to swear off renting altogether. A strong property management company can guide you with an effective tenant screening checklist to get those “dream renters” who want to stay in your property forever.

Well-structured criteria can also help you determine who is likely to treat your property with respect, pay rent on time, and be a good community member.

Check out our ultimate tenant screening checklist for your rental property!

Understanding Fair Housing Laws

First and foremost, it’s critical to abide by national and local housing and rental laws.

The Fair Housing Act protects people from discrimination when renting, buying, financing, or engaging in other housing-related activities. Note that additional protection applies to federally assisted housing.

The regulations are in place to make sure we all act honestly and fairly without discrimination when it comes to tenant screening laws across:

  • Race
  • Color
  • National Origin
  • Religion
  • Sex (including gender identity and sexual orientation)
  • Familial Status
  • Disability

It generally applies to most housing. If you’re observing these laws, you’re on the right track.

Setting Your Tenant Screening Criteria

Let’s dive into the key elements of evaluating potential renters, which include digging into their past and confirming how much they earn and where they work.

Also, consider what’s non-negotiable for you. On-time rent payments? A spotless rental history? Decide what matters most.

Choosing the Right Rental Advertising to Attract an Ideal Tenant

To snag those ideal tenants, advertise where tenants are looking for a rental property:

  • Zillow: Great for a broad audience, but expect lots of competition.
  • Apartments.com: Perfect if your place has unique amenities that stand out.
  • Social Media: Local Facebook groups can be goldmines for finding community-focused renters. We’ve also put together tips for advertising on social media that you can check out here.

Preparing for Property Showings

Future tenants will be eager to put their best foot forward. However, the good tenants will likely also evaluate you during the process. They want to know that you’ll be on top of things if they have some sort of maintenance issue or bug problem.

  • Be punctual and presentable. Just like you wouldn’t show up late to an important meeting, don’t keep potential tenants waiting. And dress the part; let them know you are professional.
  • Cleanliness is key. Ensure the place looks spotless. A clean property speaks for itself louder than words ever could.
  • Highlight what makes your property special. Got killer views, a pool, or stainless-steel appliances? Make sure they see it.
  • Fix what needs fixing. Faucets that don’t work, broken cabinets, and mold tell prospective renters that they should move along.

A transparent rental listing that outlines expectations clearly saves time by weeding out less interested folks upfront.

Collecting and Reviewing Rental Applications

So, you’ve got your rental listing out there, and the applications are rolling in, which can be exciting and overwhelming at the same time.

This is about getting a peek into who might be calling your property “home.” Yes, you’re looking for red flags, but you’re also looking for gold stars—reliable income, solid credit reports, rental history, and a carefully filled-out application form.

The Initial Tenant Interview

Take some time to talk to the potential renter before they submit a rental application. Ask them some basic questions, as well as anything that might be personally important to you (within Fair Housing regulations):

  • Why are you moving?
  • What is your move-in timeline?
  • Is your gross income 3x the monthly rent? How will you prove your income (paystubs, three months of recent bank statements, etc.)?
  • Is there anyone else who would be occupying the property with you?
  • Are you anticipating any need to sublet?
  • Will you do a criminal and credit check?
  • Can I speak to your previous landlords about your rental history?
  • Do you have any pets? Do they meet the pet requirements?
  • Can you provide me with your employer’s information so I can verify your employment?

You have your intuition, but asking these initial questions can save you and the applicant time and money prior to applying if they don’t meet your minimum requirements.

The Basics: Background and Criminal Checks, Income Verification, and Employment Status

Once an application is submitted, do your due diligence. This means background, credit report, and criminal records checks.

What are you looking for when examining a credit report and criminal record? Patterns. A hiccup here or there might not be a deal-breaker, but consistent late payments? Red flag city. We’re not prying into personal lives here; we’re simply making sure those who wish to rent come with reputable histories without felonies, an offense related to property damage, or other questionable elements in their past.

Assessing Pay Stubs and Contacting Employers

Verifying income and employment history or status is vital. You need a tenant who can consistently pay the rent every month. Verifying income isn’t just about ticking boxes; it’s detective work that makes sure your tenant can actually afford the place.

Proving income through paycheck slips or reaching out to bosses is part of ensuring you’ve got a renter who will stay caught up on their rent.

Contacting a current employer might feel awkward, but it’s necessary. You want to hear straight from the horse’s mouth that this person works here and earns enough money to cover rent three times over. This is because they also need funds for food, clothing, transportation, a phone, and other living expenses.

This step is about ensuring that your tenants aren’t just great on paper but solid in reality too.

References from Previous Landlords Can Give You Key Insights

Reaching out to current and previous landlords isn’t just about confirming they paid rent on time. It’s akin to conducting a thorough investigation into their respect for the premises and rapport with those living nearby, going beyond mere timely payments. Importantly, you want to know if there are any eviction history reports.

Ask open-ended questions to get real stories, not just yes or no answers. Did they leave the place better than they found it? Would their landlord rent to them again? Why or why not?

This step is your best shot at ensuring your property remains in good hands.

Evaluating Potential Tenants

Finding the right tenant involves gathering and analyzing information rather than relying on chance.

  • Accepting the Applicant: Does their rental history sing praises? Are their finances stable enough to cover rent and then some? If yes, you might have found your match.
  • Denying the Applicant: Late payments history or troubling behavior from past landlords’ tales? Trust those signs; better safe than sorry.

Your gut feeling after this checklist is your best friend. Listen closely.

Leveraging Technology in Tenant Screening

Ever feel like you’re playing detective when screening tenants? You’re not alone. But guess what? Property management software, tenant screening services, and that nifty invention called a tenant screening API are here to save the day.

Think of these tools as your tech-savvy sidekicks. They can help with sifting through applications, checking backgrounds, and even verifying income faster than you can say “lease agreement.” No more endless paperwork or second-guessing if someone’s story adds up.

Call All County Property to Handle Your Tenant Screening Process

Does all of this sound overwhelming and a lot of work? It can be, so hiring a solid property management company can take the burden off your shoulders and ensure the professional, efficient screening of prospective tenants. Our property managers are experienced in the proper tenant screening process for rental properties.

The power of a thorough tenant screening checklist to find the right tenants for your real estate can’t be understated. Give us a call today, and let us take over the entire process to keep your properties running smoothly and maximize the return on your investments.The Ultimate Tenant Screening Checklist for Landlords

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