The key to optimizing the rental application process is to first realize that it’s not about completing rental forms. If there’s one phrase that best describes the screening process, from vacancy to new tenant, it’s a process of elimination.
The goal throughout that process is to narrow down the list of qualified candidates and then choose the best prospect. That seems easy enough, until you factor in the pressure that a landlord is under to fill a vacancy. Every day the property remains vacant is money lost.
Here are 9 steps that can help you optimize your tenant screening process, and get the tenant you need in less time:
1. When it comes to vacancies, you don’t want to be flooded with applications. It is not a popularity contest. The more applications you process, the less money you will make. The rental ad should be targeted so it does some of the work for you, by advancing qualified tenants, and dissuading those who won’t work out.
2. Don’t underestimate the time savings of asking questions upfront when a prospect first calls. When are your planning to move? Why are you moving? What’s your income? Do you have pets? Do you have a good rental history? These are all questions that need to be asked at some point, so better to do it sooner than later. Don’t wait until you’ve spent the afternoon with this renter only to find out there’s a deal-killer.
3. Always meet with the rental applicant in a safe place and verify identity before spending time giving a property tour. Offering a tour to every prospect answering the ad not only jeopardizes your personal safety and the privacy of the current tenants, but it’s not a good use of your time.
4. If a prospect is interested during the tour, go over a summary of lease terms and house rules, and ask for the person’s buy-in. This eliminates unqualified renters, and also helps to reinforce those rules later on.
5. Serious applicants need to complete a rental application, sign, and date it. Each adult occupant needs to do this. The application must include any additional documentation requested. At that time, collect an application fee. This proves commitment, and sets the stage for successful tenant screening. Let the applicants know ahead of time that they will be asked to sign a declaration that the information provided is true, and later can be evicted for making fraudulent statements. You want them to be forthcoming about any potential snags in the process.
6. Review the application to determine if this prospect appears qualified. If he or she does not, return the application fee, or the portion earmarked for tenant screening, and move on.
7. If after reading the rental application the prospective tenant appears qualified, then run a tenant background check, which should include a credit report. Be sure to compare any information from the credit report to the rental application, and look for any discrepancies that could be red flags. Speak with each individual’s references to confirm the information provided in the rental application is true.
8. Provide the future tenants with a copy of the lease agreement so they can read it before they sign it. That’s the best way to enforce the provisions, and to avoid costly disputes. Each adult occupant should sign the lease.
9. Complete the application process by performing a walk-through with the tenant and preparing a move-in inspection report. This step can save the day when it comes to disputes over security deposit deductions.
Finding a good tenant is the best way to keep your rental properties profitable. However, even the best tenants can sour if the property management is not up to par. Always strive to provide good service throughout the lease term, and you will keep your rental business running smoothly.
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).
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Disclaimer: The information provided in this post in 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.