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.
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.