Property Management for Landlords: How to Screen Tenants - Basic Property Management
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September 17th, 2022

As a landlord, it’s important to know how to properly screen tenants. By doing so, you can minimize the risk of having bad tenants who will not pay rent or damage your property.

In this blog post, we’ll discuss some tips for screening tenants and what to look for. Keep in mind that each situation is different, so be sure to tailor the screening process to fit your specific needs.

The importance of tenant screening

There are a few key reasons why it’s important to screen your tenants:

  • To make sure they can afford the rent: You don’t want to end up with a tenant who can’t pay the rent. By running a credit check, you can get an idea of their financial situation and whether or not they’ll be able to make rent payments on time.

  • To see if they have a history of property damage: A tenant with a history of property damage is someone you definitely want to avoid. Checking their rental history will give you some insight into their past behavior as a tenant.

  • To verify their identity: This is important for security purposes. You want to make sure that the person who is renting your property is who they say they are.

How to create a tenant screening criteria

As a landlord, you want to find good tenants who will take care of your property and pay rent on time. To do this, you need to create tenant screening criteria that are based on the demographics of your neighborhood and the real estate market.

Here are some best property management for landlords practices to follow:

First, decide what type of tenant you are looking for. Do you want someone who is employed full-time, or someone who is a student? What is their income range? Are you looking for a tenant with a pet, or someone who doesn’t have one? Once you know what type of tenant you are looking for, you can create screening criteria that will help you find them.

Next, research the demographics of your neighborhood and the real estate market. What is the average income in your area? What is the average rental price? What types of properties are in demand? This information will help you set realistic screening criteria that will attract the right tenants.

Finally, create a tenant screening criteria checklist that includes all of the information you need to make a decision. Be sure to include questions about employment, income, rental history, and credit score. By following these best practices, you can create tenant screening criteria that will help you find a qualified tenant who will take care of your property and pay the rent on time.

The different types of background checks you can run on potential tenants

Online tenant screening services such as Apartments.com (formerly Cozy) and My Smart Move are two ways landlords can screen tenants. Reports that are included in a thorough tenant screening process typically include:

  • Credit check: A credit check will show you the tenant’s credit score and history. This is important because it will give you an idea of their financial stability and whether or not they are likely to pay rent on time.

  • Criminal background check: A criminal background check will show you if the tenant has any past convictions. This is important because you want to avoid renting to someone who has a history of criminal activity.

  • Employment verification: Employment verification will confirm that the tenant is employed and that their income is sufficient to cover the rent. This is important because you want to make sure that the tenant can afford the rent payments.

  • Rental history: Rental history will show you how the tenant has behaved as a renter in the past. This is important because you want to avoid renting to someone who has a history of property damage or late rent payments.

  • Identity verification: Identity verification will confirm the tenant’s identity and make sure that they are who they say they are. This is important for security purposes.

By running these different types of background checks, you can get a good idea of the tenant’s financial stability, rental history, and criminal background. This information will help you make an informed decision about whether or not to rent to them.

Photo by The Jopwell Collection on Unsplash

What kind of questions to ask during a rental interview

Once you have screened the tenant and gathered all of the necessary information, it’s time to conduct a rental interview. This is a key task of property management for landlords, and will give you the opportunity to get to know the tenant and ensure that they are a good fit for your property.

There are a few things you should keep in mind when conducting a rental interview:

  • First, be sure to ask questions that will help you get to know the tenant and their situation. For example, you might ask about their employment status, income, rental history, and credit score.

  • Second, be sure to listen carefully to the tenant’s answers. This will help you get a better sense of who they are and whether or not they would be a good fit for your property.

  • Finally, be sure to ask follow-up questions if you have any concerns about the tenant’s answers. This will help you get clarification and make sure that you are making the best decision for your property.

By following these tips, you can conduct a successful rental interview that will help you find a qualified tenant who is a good fit for your property. Now, let’s look at 10 questions to consider asking an applicant during a rental interview, and why:

1. What is your full name?

This question is important because you want to confirm the tenant’s identity.

2. What is your current address?

This question is important because you want to make sure that the tenant lives in the area and is familiar with the neighborhood.

3. How long have you lived at your current address?

This question is important because it will give you an idea of the tenant’s rental history. A tenant who has lived at their current address for a long time is likely to be a more stable renter than someone who has moved around frequently.

4. Do you have any pets?

This question is important because you want to know if the tenant will have any pets living in the property. Pets can cause damage to the property and disturb other tenants.

5. Why are you moving?

This question is important because it will give you an idea of the tenant’s rental history. A tenant who is moving because they were evicted from their previous property is likely to be a high-risk tenant.

6. How many people will be living in the property?

This question is important because you want to make sure that the property will not be overcrowded. Overcrowding can lead to property damage and disturbances for other tenants.

7. What is your current employment situation?

This question is important because you want to make sure that the tenant is employed and has a steady income. A tenant who is unemployed or underemployed is likely to have difficulty paying rent on time.

8. What is your monthly income?

This question is important because you want to make sure that the tenant can afford the rent payments. The tenant’s monthly income should be at least three times the amount of the rent.

9. Do you have any past evictions?

This question is important because you want to avoid renting to a tenant who has a history of being evicted from their previous property. Evicted tenants are likely to cause property damage and disturbances for other tenants.

10. Do you have any criminal convictions?

This question is important because you want to avoid renting to a tenant who has a history of criminal activity. A tenant with a criminal record may be more likely to cause property damage and disturbances for other tenants.

Photo by Mateus Campos Felipe on Unsplash

Property management for landlords bonus tip: The legalities of tenant screening

There are a number of federal and state laws that landlords must follow when screening tenants. These laws are designed to protect the rights of tenants and to ensure that landlords treat every applicant fairly.

The Federal Fair Housing Act prohibits discrimination in housing based on race, color, religion, national origin, sex, familial status, or disability. This means that landlords cannot refuse to rent to an applicant because of their protected status. Landlords also cannot make any rental decisions that have a disparate impact on a protected class of tenants.

In addition to the Federal Fair Housing Act, there are a number of state and local fair housing laws that landlords must follow. These laws may vary from state to state, but they all have the same goal of preventing discrimination in housing.

The best way to ensure that your tenant screening process is legal is to treat every applicant the same. This means asking the same questions of every applicant and using the same criteria to make rental decisions. Landlords should also avoid making any assumptions about an applicant’s ability to pay rent or their willingness to follow the rules of the property.

There are a number of resources available to landlords who want to learn more about fair housing laws. The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) provides information on federal, state, and local fair housing laws. HUD also offers training courses on fair housing for landlords and property managers. You can find more information on HUD’s website at www.hud.gov.

The National Fair Housing Alliance (NFHA) is another great resource for landlords. The NFHA is a national organization that works to eliminate discrimination in housing. They offer education and training resources on fair housing laws, as well as a complaint hotline for tenants who believe they have been the victim of discrimination. You can find more information on the NFHA website at www.fairhousing.org.

The best way to avoid problems with the law is to educate yourself on fair housing laws and to treat all of your applicants fairly. By following these guidelines, you can ensure that your tenant screening process is legal and compliant with all applicable laws.

Final thoughts

One of the key tasks of property management for landlords is the importance of good tenant screening practices. It is important for landlords to screen tenants carefully in order to avoid problems down the road.

The landlord should ask each applicant the same questions and use the same criteria to make rental decisions. Landlords should also be familiar with fair housing laws in order to avoid any legal trouble.

By taking the time to screen tenants properly, landlords can help ensure that their property is well-maintained and that their tenants are happy.

Blog post written by J. Scott Digital freelance copywriting services. Featured photo Brooke Cagle on Unsplash.

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