It doesn’t matter if you are new to the rental market or a seasoned landlord, the importance of a thorough tenant screening process when vetting tenants should not be underestimated.
So many of the tenanting issues landlords encounter could be avoided by simply having a more effective process for screening tenants.
A little more extra effort now could save you a lot of time, money and stress in the long run.
Proper screening can reduce your risk of being stuck with tenants who can’t pay rent on time, host parties on the regular and cause you more trouble than their rent is worth.
Sound too good to be true? It isn’t. And the best part is - all of this can be achieved whilst streamlining the tenant screening process so that you can get leases signed quick smart.
So what’s the trick to finding trustworthy and reliable tenants?
Ask potential tenants to ring or email you to arrange a viewing. You can then use common sense to take stock of the person on the other end of the call or email thread.
Do they sound genuine? Are they eager to view the property or do they sound like they might be a bit of a time-waster?
Telltale signs include asking about whether the bond could be waived or how you feel about small animals inside when the advertisement clearly said no pets.
You can then meet with prospective tenants in person at the viewing. This will give you a further opportunity to ask questions and find out more information.
Ultimately, you are trying to gauge whether this person appears trustworthy, mature and reliable.
At the viewing, invite any interested parties to complete an application form, either in hard copy or electronically. They can fill the application form out on the spot (can be the quickest option) or send you an email later.
First things first: know your legal responsibilities to store and protect personal information when collecting applications and screening tenants.
Next, check the applicant has a Government-Issued ID so you can be sure that the person signing the lease is really who they say they are and isn’t committing identity theft.
At a minimum, you will need the applicant’s full name and date of birth. However, you may need more information (e.g. where they have previously resided) if they have a common name.
An easy initial character test is to search the applicant on Google or social media for any red flags or information that may conflict with what they have previously told you. For instance, where are they employed on LinkedIn? Do they look like a mature and reliable person on their Facebook page?
It’s helpful to ask to see the applicant’s two most recent payslips so that you can be sure the applicant has the means to pay the rent. Generally speaking, their income must cover the rent plus any normal living costs, relative to your area.
Follow up with landlord references (preferably more than one), and make sure you ask the right questions. Did they pay rent on time? Did they take care of the property? Would you rent a property to them again? Cater your line of questioning to the type of property you are renting, and have a pen and paper handy just in case you need to jot anything down.
If the landlord references check out, it’s time to look into a background check and credit report. Look into the applicable laws in your state and know what your obligations are when it comes to screening tenants and their personal information.
There are several tools available that can help review and store credit reports and background checks. If you do conduct the check yourself, look to your state laws as to which party covers the cost. It may also pay to check the Federal and State Sex Offender Database.
By now, you should have a fairly good idea about whether an applicant would make a good tenant. Hopefully, you won’t have to find new tenants too often (unless you keep acquiring new rentals)! But eventually, you will have the screening process down to a fine art.
Let us know if you have any tips for when screening tenants. We would love to hear from you!
We hope you found this blog interesting! However, do note that it should not be used as a substitute for competent legal and/or other advice from a licensed professional.
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