Once you have successfully marketed and advertised your property and you have people interested in renting it, you need to know how to screen a tenant. The process of tenant screening needs to be detailed and consistent. Fair housing laws require you to treat every applicant the same. Put a process in writing, as well as a set of criteria that you’ll use to evaluate the applications. When you provide your requirements to potential tenants, they can decide whether they have a chance of getting approved before they fill out the application.
Use a Detailed Application
Your application should collect all of the pertinent information, including contact information, date of birth, social security number, employment information, and a list of current and former landlords. You’ll want the application to grant you permission to conduct a credit and background check. Make sure every adult who is 18 or older fills out an application, and ask that all residents be listed on the application, even if they are children.
Check Financial Records
You’ll want to check the applicant’s credit report for debts, judgments, and unpaid bills. It’s also important to make sure they have not been evicted previously. Finally, measure the income level against the amount of rent. It’s a good idea to require that a tenant earn three times the amount of the monthly rent. So, if you charge $2,000 a month for your house, make sure the tenants earn at least $6,000 per month. Ask for income documentation, such as pay stubs, bank records showing direct deposits, or tax records.
Criminal and Background Checks
You should do a nationwide criminal check to make sure your prospective tenants do not have a history of violent crimes, sexual offenses, or any pattern of behavior that will put your property or the community at risk. Many property managers will go further than a criminal background and check things like the sexual offender database and the terrorism watch list.
The best way to predict a tenant’s future behavior is by assessing his or her past behavior as a renter. Get contact information for the prospective tenant’s previous landlords. Ask about whether rent was paid on time, if there was considerable damage left behind at the property, whether the tenant had pets, and if that landlord would rent to this person again.