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How to Screen Tenants: The Basics Explained

How to Screen Tenants: The Basics Explained

Did you know that landlords file around 3.6 million eviction cases nationwide?

No one benefits from an eviction: they're messy, costly, and an action of last resort. However, they can be an unfortunate aspect of working as a landlord, especially if you neglect the tenant screening process.

Knowing how to screen tenants can ensure that you're finding tenants you can rely on for months or years to come. Whether you're new to property management or you're an industry veteran, let's take a look at the basics of the screening process.

Set Minimum Requirements

Before you start collecting applications, set some minimum requirements to ensure you're getting qualified applicants. Depending on your preferences, you may want to establish a few of these common requirements:

  • Showing proof of employment
  • Earning an income that supports regular rent comes
  • Having a solid credit history
  • Having a minimum credit score
  • Passing a tenant background check
  • Having a clean rental history
  • Following any "no pets" or "no smoking" policies

Note that any requirements you set must follow the Federal Fair Housing Act.

Request Rental Applications

Next, request rental applications. These applications should show that applicants meet your requirements, but you can also collect additional information.

For example, you may want to ask about pets and emotional support animals, potential roommates, and expected guests. You can also ask about their job, including how long they've been there and what previous jobs they've held.

Run Essential Checks

With the information from your rental applications, it's time to run a few checks.

You can start with a pre-screening on your own by looking through any public information about the applicant. This can include checking their social media and searching for them online.

You'll also want to run a credit check. The applicant should meet your listed minimum credit score, but you may want to show a preference for applicants with even higher scores.

In addition, run a check on their rental history. This will include details about previous addresses and any past evictions.

It's also crucial to run a criminal background check. Not only can this offer insights into an applicant's criminal history, but it can also contain information about ongoing lawsuits or legal troubles.

After you've gotten these reports, make sure to speak with the applicant's current employer, landlord, and any other references to get a feel for their reliability.

Interview Applicants

Last, interview any applicants you're seriously considering. This is an opportunity to verify the information you've received.

It also allows you to ensure you and the applicant are on the same page about rent payment options, tenant responsibilities, property policies, and more. You should also ask why they're moving and how long they plan to stay. The best tenants will come prepared with questions, so be ready for a long conversation!

Know How to Screen Tenants

Knowing how to screen tenants is crucial if you hope to avoid messy disputes, missing rent payments, and evictions. The guidelines above are a great way to ensure that you create a healthy landlord-tenant relationship with the best applicants from the start.

As you work to improve your screening practices and your relationships with tenants, don't forget to check out our other posts for insights or to reach out to us at Income Property Advisors for San Diego property management expertise.