How to Screen Tenants (Without Wasting Your Time)

by | Mar 9, 2020 | Tenant Screening

The way to save time and avoid bad tenants is to take a surgical approach to tenant screening by focusing solely on qualifications. Detours and tangents only lead to irrelevant information. Use the checklist below to help you stick to the basics:

First Contact

Begin the interaction with a new applicant by running through a list of initial questions that target whether the tenant is qualified:

What’s your name?
When are you planning to move?
Have you given notice to your current landlord?
Do you have verifiable income from any source?
How many occupants/cars?
Are you willing to follow the rules – such as no-smoking, no pets, no marijuana?
Do you have a good rental history?
Can I speak with your current and previous landlords?
Will you consent to a tenant background check?

Meet Face-to-Face

When meeting for the first time, bring along your notes on the initial questions, and ask for a photo ID. From there, run through your list of common red flags:

The person’s name on their ID is different than the name they gave over the phone.
The applicant changes their answers to the prequalifying questions.
The prospect brings up a sad story, and then tries to bargain for rent concessions or to pay in installments.
The person is showing a heightened sense of urgency about moving in.
The tenant wants to pay in cash.
The applicant attacks the credibility of the current landlord.

Tenant Appears Qualified

The next step is to provide a rental application. Do not proceed without verifying the identity of the applicant. Do not provide an application without first meeting the applicant in person.

Read through the completed rental application and determine if the person is qualified, assuming all information is true.


Verify that information independently through supplemental documentation like pay stubs and by speaking with employer and previous landlord references.

Tenant Screening Reports

Run tenant screening reports to catch any discrepancies. If anywhere along the path things don’t seem to add up, stop and speak with the applicant. Maybe there’s an explanation.

Or, maybe the applicant doesn’t get back to you in a timely fashion and you go on to the next one. Better for that to happen now than after a nightmare tenant has moved in.

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.

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