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4 Effective Ways to Screen Tenants

by Nick Quirk

Screening tenants is not what it used to be. Property owners have to dig deeper to confirm that everything an applicant said is legitimate. It’s easier now to fake documents than ever before. Landlords need to keep a sharp eye out for tenants that aren’t who they say they are.

Here are several tips that landlords can use to screen tenants before signing a lease for one of their rental properties.

1. Background Check

Before signing a lease with a potential tenant, your first step should be running a background check. The most charismatic applicants can win you over on the phone while having a ‘colorful past’. Review things like past criminal records, evictions, and credit history. If this applicant has been evicted several times, run in the other direction.

Of course, there is more to a person than just their background. People who have made mistakes in the past can change. You don’t necessarily want to rule anyone out right away. There are always two sides to each story.

If an applicant passes with flying colors besides the background check, read into the report to see exactly what happened. Certain blemishes on a background check are worse than others. Remain as open as you can to all applicants until they give you a good enough reason not to.

2. Verify Income and Employment

Another tenant-screening tip is to verify that the potential tenant can afford the rent. Use their documents to your advantage. Request multiple pay stubs and bank statements to confirm their income. Ideally, they should earn at least triple the rent amount per month. Additionally, contact their employer to confirm their employment status and salary.

This step not only validates their current financial situation but also helps predict their economic stability. Some applicants can lie about their employment or rental history on an application. Thankfully, legitimate documents can’t lie.

3. Check References

References can provide insights that documents can’t. In addition to an applicant’s boss, their former landlords can also tell you a lot about them. If they were previously a terrible tenant, you will likely hear about that from their last landlord. These conversations are invaluable; they often reveal how the tenant maintains a property and relates with neighbors.

We spoke to Alex Capozzolo of Brotherly Love Real Estate, a landlord in Philadelphia. He explained, “References are everything when screening tenants. We’ve had multiple tenants try to fake these. That’s an immediate red flag for us. You can learn a ton about a potential tenant from their references. Ideally, they give a personal one, a previous manager, and a family member.”

4. Interview the Tenant

Finally, arrange a face-to-face interview. This meeting is your chance to get a sense of their personality and responsibility. Ask about their rental history, reasons for moving, and expectations from their new home. This interaction can also clarify any concerns raised by your earlier checks. Observing their demeanor and responsiveness during the interview can further inform your decision.

The gut feelings you get from a person carry weight and shouldn’t be dismissed. An applicant can be perfect on paper but give you a strange feeling when you meet them in person. Feel out all potential tenants before committing to someone.

Tap into your Spidey Sense and don’t be afraid to open up the floor to unfiltered transparency during an interview. Think about every single question and doubt that you have. Lay everything out while you have the opportunity to do so during this interview – this will help you make your decision with the utmost confidence possible.

Screening Tenants

It’s important to take tenant screening seriously as a landlord. Whether you own one single-family home or a large apartment building, getting good tenants is the only way you’ll survive long-term. A bad tenant can cost you tons of money and cause unneeded stress. You want to protect your asset – especially if it has smart automation features through the property. By using these reliable screening tactics, you can avoid all of that and make property management much easier.