How to Do Your First Tenant Screening

tenant screening
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Tenant screening protects your property and your investment, and it all starts with a simple application.

An application can tell you everything you need to know about a potential tenant. You can use your application to learn whether the tenant will be able to pay rent and utilities, if they have a steady job, or what kind of family they have (with or without pets).

If you want to run a background or credit check on a tenant, you can let them know what is expected in your application. But make sure that information is easy to find and understand. The tenant should mark or sign their permission for you to carry about these checks.

What Should I Include in My Renting Application?

You should make your application as detailed as you need to find out if a prospective tenant is going to be a good fit. Don’t worry about making it too long. If a tenant is serious about renting, they’ll take the time to fill out the entire application.

That said, here are some of the main questions you should include:

  • Employers, current and previous: This lets you know if the tenant has a secure job or if they have changed jobs frequently. They should provide contact information so you can call their employer if you need to.
  • Level of Income: You need to know they can afford rent and other living expenses. You should also ask for any other financial information, like bank accounts and credit cards, that will help you determine their financial situation.
  • Previous Landlords: Any information about where they rented previously, how much they paid for rent, and reasons for leaving should be included. Again, get the contact information of past landlords so you can give them a call.
  • Occupants: You should ask how many people will be living there (adults and children) and whether or not they have any pets.
  • Relevant Personal Information: This is things like full, legal name, phone numbers, email addresses, etc.

Where Do I get an Application?

You can usually find sample applications at your local real estate association, but you can also make one yourself.

What to Do Next

Once you have all that information, spend some time reading it and following up.

Call Past Landlords

Ask questions about whether the tenant was able to pay the rent consistently, if they have any current debt with the landlord, or if the landlord would rent to them again.

Do a Credit Check

This will show you a tenants credit history for the last several years. You can find out if the tenant has maxed out cards, looming debt, or carried loans that will make them struggle to pay rent.

Do a Background Check

You don’t want to risk putting someone who could be dangerous in with your other tenants. It’s not safe for them or you. You’ll probably want to avoid people with a criminal record or people who have been sued for things like unpaid rent in the past.

Talk to Employer

The employer can tell you if the tenant has a stable job and how much they currently make.

Conduct an Interview

Interviewing possible tenants will let you get a sense of their personality. You can also find out more about their lifestyle and whether or not you think they’ll be a good fit for you and your other tenants.

Don’t Skip Tenant Screening

You should screen all possible tenants, but do not go overboard. You must adhere to the Fair Housing Act, and you don’t want to break any privacy laws in the Landlord and Tenant Act.

Need any help with your tenant screening? Contact us and we’ll get you started.

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