6 Tenant Screening Strategies That Always Work

by Chris on November 5, 2018

There is a lot to know about screening tenants – and a lot at stake. Choosing good tenants is the cornerstone of a profitable rental business. These tried-and-true tenant screening strategies always work when it comes to finding the right tenants and preventing costly mistakes:

Lower the Volume
Limit the number of unqualified applicants applying for your vacancy by making the rental ad do double-duty. The ad not only is announcing a vacancy — it’s a filter that helps screen tenants.

To attract the right applicants, consider what the ad is projecting about you: Is this the first time you’ve filled a vacancy? Are you lax on rules? Will you require a tenant background check? Bad tenants are looking for flexibility; good tenants want structure.

Limit the ad to a description of the property — the size, general location, price, and amenities — and a list of the most pertinent rules. Don’t try to describe the hypothetical tenant. That screams inexperience, or worse: “I don’t play by the rules.”

While free ads are, well, free, keep in mind that other advertising platforms offer incentives to tenants and tend to be populated by professional property management companies. Bad tenants have no reason to turn to these sites but good tenants do. At the same time, the volume of applicants goes down. One qualified renter is all you need — not 25 unqualified ones.

Don’t Show the Property to Unqualified Renters
It is inevitable that some applicants will have to be rejected. That should happen as early as possible to save time and hard feelings. Prequalify renters before allowing a showing. Find out if the person:

Can show sufficient income;
Has a good rental history;
Can abide by the landlord’s restrictions or rules; and
Is ready to move at the right time.

Ask for contact information on any applicant moving forward in the process. Record the applicant’s answers, and then check the photo ID before the tour to ensure the information matches up.

Review the Rental Application First
Review the completed rental application before conducting a tenant background check. Why waste time and money if there is a glaring problem, like unexplained gaps in rental history, no references, insufficient income, or a lack of supporting documentation?

Don’t Make it Personal
Don’t reject or accept applicants based on subjective standards. Stick to the specific qualifications:
The applicant has sufficient, verifiable income;
References that can verify the tenant pays rent and takes care of the property; and
Is not likely to cause disruptions.

A combative personality means the person doesn’t qualify. Age, gender, marital status or culture has nothing to do with it.

Avoid Small Talk
Uniformity is key to evaluating applicant qualifications and avoiding human rights violations. Stay focused on questions that are relevant and ask the same questions of each applicant. To the extent possible, stay on task and don’t get swept up in personal conversations with rental applicants. That sort of small talk can lead to inappropriate — albeit innocent — questions that are discriminatory.

Verify
No matter how qualified an applicant may appear, verify the information in the rental application and run a tenant credit check before signing the lease. It all likelihood, the work will simply confirm that the applicant is a good choice. But in those cases where the tenant has lied, you will be relieved that you found out before it was too late.

This post is provided by Tenant Verification Service, Inc., helping landlords reduce the risks of renting with fraud prevention tools that include Tenant Screening, Tenant Background Checks, (U.S. and Canada), as well as Criminal Background Checks, and Eviction Reports (U.S. only).

Click Here to Receive Landlord Credit Reports.

Disclaimer: The information provided in this post is not intended to be construed as legal advice, nor should it be considered a substitute for obtaining individual legal counsel or consulting your local, state, federal or provincial tenancy laws.

{ 0 comments }

Granted, it’s difficult to get excited about move-in and move-out condition reports. But it might help to consider that these smart little spreadsheets are what allow you to collect for any damage that a tenant might cause.

In fact, a landlord can use condition reports to:

Identify property damage from the previous tenant;
Flag needed repairs before more damage occurs;
Track failed repairs or call in a warranty;
Record any damage the current tenant causes; and
Claim deductions against a tenant’s security deposit or pursue the tenant for reimbursement.

Like other landlord forms, move-in and move out checklists can be found online. However, like other landlord forms, a move-in and move-out condition report must be tailored to the specific property. Many preprinted forms need to be modified because those forms:

Lack the accurate number of bedrooms or bathrooms;
Do not specify which bedroom is which;
Do not include outdoor spaces; or
Include non-applicable features that cause confusion.

Creating a Move-In and Move-Out Checklist

Modify an online form or create a custom checklist in Google Sheets or Excel by following these tips:

The same form must be used for both the move-in and the move-out, so create two columns and label them accordingly.

Include a key to any codes or abbreviations that will be used to describe the condition of the property. For instance, with numbers, include the scale — usually 1-10 — and explain how that is determined. Or define the cutoff for “excellent”, “good”, “fair”, and so on. An alternative is to leave ample space to write in phrases or sentences to describe the property condition.

Walk through the property when creating the checklist because memory can be limited. It typically is easiest to begin at the front door and follow the flow through the unit.

Record the condition of each surface. It’s helpful to list items in the same order in each room. For instance, begin with floors, then walls, doors, windows and window coverings, then ceilings, light fixtures, fans and smoke detectors, then counter surfaces, and systems like electrical outlets, faucets and appliances. Finish with any outdoor spaces — balconies, patios or yards and parking. With single family homes, more modifications may be needed for garages or outbuildings.

Each room must be easily identified on the checklist. That can be difficult with multiple bedrooms or bathrooms. Many preprinted forms use numbers, but “Bedroom 1” might not be clear. Use more descriptive language to identify these rooms: master bedroom, first-floor bedroom, 10×14 bedroom, Jack and Jill bath, 3/4 bath and so on.

Leave loads of space for comments or other notations. Because both the landlord and tenant can place comments on the form, provide a corresponding space for the commenter to initial next to each comment.

Include signature lines for both the landlord and tenant. That may require multiple lines for the tenants. Separate sets of signatures will be needed for the move-in and the move-out inspections. Include space to record the dates and times for both the move-in and the move-out.

The move-in condition report can be completed by the landlord prior to the tenant moving in. The signed form is then left with the tenant for about a week or 10 days. The tenant can use this time to inspect the property and to comment on any additional items. Once the tenant has made the updates, ask the tenant to sign and return the form. Pay attention to the tenant’s comments and act on any needed repairs as soon as possible.

Alternatively, the tenant and landlord can complete the move-in checklist together at the tenant orientation.

The move-out condition report should be completed in person with the tenant. That way, the tenant and landlord can discuss any items of damage that exceed normal wear and tear. The tenant should be allowed to add comments before signing the form. This will reduce the likelihood of a legal dispute and prevents the tenant from later denying the condition of the property.

Landlord Tip: One way to ensure the rental unit is returned in good condition is to offer a mock move-out inspection using the checklist about a month before the actual move-out date. That gives tenants a head start with cleaning or repairs needed in order to get the full deposit back or avoid any financial liability.

Finally, and perhaps the most important tip regarding the move-in and move-out checklist: Use it!Ā  If you don’t, you may not be allowed to deduct damages from the tenant’s deposit or win a monetary order for the full amount.

This post is provided by Tenant Verification Service, Inc., helping landlords reduce the risks of renting with fraud prevention tools that include Tenant Screening, Tenant Background Checks, (U.S. and Canada), as well as Criminal Background Checks, and Eviction Reports (U.S. only).

Click Here to Receive Landlord Credit Reports.

Disclaimer: The information provided in this post is not intended to be construed as legal advice, nor should it be considered a substitute for obtaining individual legal counsel or consulting your local, state, federal or provincial tenancy laws.

{ 0 comments }

10 Tips for Avoiding Damage to Your Rental Property

November 5, 2018

Every rental property is going to undergo some level of wear and tear. It’s inevitable. But that doesn’t mean landlords can’t take steps to prolong the life — and value — of each rental unit: 1. Check rental history. When screening tenants, watch for a pattern of property damage. Ask previous landlords whether the person […]

Read the full article →

Should High Schools Offer Classes in Renting?

November 5, 2018

A recent opinion piece in HuffPost Canada suggests adding tenants’ rights to the curriculum for high school students. That’s an excellent idea, but it doesn’t go far enough. According to the article, Ontario currently is running a pilot program in the secondary schools to introduce financial literacy. But a criticism of that program is that […]

Read the full article →

What Smart Landlords Know About Lease Agreements

October 22, 2018

Have an ironclad lease? A lease agreement can be tricky. If it’s too generic, it won’t protect the landlord. If it’s too one-sided, it may not be enforceable. And if it’s too confusing, tenants won’t understand what is expected of them. Whether you’re a first-time landlord or a veteran who has been lucky so far, […]

Read the full article →

Restrictions on Kids Spark Lawsuit Against Landlord

October 22, 2018

A Texas landlord and property management company are facing a discrimination lawsuit over restrictions they placed on children. Those restrictions resulted in the manager levying a fine of $250 — one half of one month’s rent — on the parents of two children, ages 5 and 7. The children were being supervised by other adults […]

Read the full article →

U.S. Rents Hit Record High as Rent Growth Slows

October 22, 2018

U.S. apartment rents spiked in September but rent growth this fall is slower than last year, according to the latest quarterly HotPadsĀ® Rent Report. Hotpads, which compiles data from rental listings in 35 major metro areas, found the current median rent is $1,500 per month, a 2.5 percent bump from last year. However, this time […]

Read the full article →

4 Easy Ways to Beef Up Your Rental Forms

October 22, 2018

Landlord forms are the mainstay of any rental business. Make your rental forms work harder by following these easy strategies: 1. Make Your Rental Ad Do Double-Duty Landlords may not think of an ad as a rental form, but it can be an effective tool when it comes to tenant screening. Bad tenants have admitted […]

Read the full article →

Eviction Delays Highlight Need for Tenant Screening, Property Management

October 8, 2018

Citing a shortage of adjudicators, Ontario’s Landlord and Tenant Board is warning those seeking dispute resolution that they may experience longer-than-usual delays. Based on reported decisions over the past two months alone, including a tenant who was ordered to stop verbally abusing the landlord, it is likely that many of those pending claims are brought […]

Read the full article →

British Columbia Revises 2019 Rent Increase Guideline

October 8, 2018

The allowable rent increase guideline for British Columbia now is set at 2.5% or the rate of inflation, after the provincial government rescinded the 4.5% figure announced last month. The move came just days after the 3-member Rental Housing Task Force, authorized in April, sent a letter to Premier Horgan and Housing Minister Robinson citing […]

Read the full article →