Tenant Screening Tips

So you are looking for a dream tenant?

Apply these tenant screening tips thoroughly to help you find one.

The best source for quality tenants may come from word-of-mouth referrals, or somebody who can vouch for them - so spread the word in your community first.

smiley face with halo

Thereafter you can use the notice boards at the school, sports club, company, vet etc. If you still have no applicants, you can advertise in the community or regional newspaper. We mainly use internet sites that offer the opportunity to list rental property (with photographs) for a nominal fee or even totally free of charge.

Telephone Screening

snail on telephone

This is your first contact with a prospective tenant and you can already form a general impression. Make notes during the conversation to attach later to their application form. Confirm the rental price, features and address of the property.

Ask their reasons for their interest in your property and for leaving their current place.

Ask how many people will occupy the unit and the period of rental they are interested in. The longer the period, the better - you do not want a regular turnover of tenants.

Ask how close their place of work is and for how long they have been employed there.

All these questions will be dealt with in detail in the application form (and specified in your Free Real Estate Contract Forms and Agreements) but if you already get vague answers you should heed the warning signals.

Note: For links to all our free landlord forms, please refer to our main Real Estate page.

Showing the Property

Lets presume the applicant is male - does he arrive on time, is he courteous and presentable and does he try to make a good impression on you. Does he ask pertinent questions. Have a look at the condition of the car in which he arrived.

queue of applicants

Good showing tip:

Arrange to meet all the prospective tenants on site at the same time to show the unit. This will save you time, put pressure on applicants and hopefully stop them from trying to haggle over the rent.

Does he find fault unjustly in order to try and knock down the rental or are his concerns genuine and can they be addressed?

If he expresses an interest to rent, you can give him a rental application form (most important tool in your tenant screening tips when you Become a Landlord ) but tell him you have other applications to consider and give him the closing date for applications. Ask him for proof of identity, compare the photo and enter the information into the space provided on the application form.

The Rental Application Form

The following information will be required:

  • Full identification such as ID/Social Security and or drivers license
  • Full identification details for additional occupants
  • Rental history - current and prior
  • Employment details - current and prior
  • Credit information such as bank details, car financing details and other credit references such as furniture or clothing accounts
  • Friend and family details
  • Permission to verify all details

Tenant Screening Tips Post Application

Once you have a couple of applications you can compare them and then verify the details of candidates on your shortlist. Take your time and do this thoroughly! Do not use the telephone numbers supplied on the form blindly (in case his friend poses as his employer and gives him a glowing reference) but use the telephone directory to verify his place of work etc.

A vacant apartment does cost you money but a marginal tenant will cost you more in the long run. Do not be influenced by sad stories - if it starts off like this it will most likely only get worse.

Set yourself a checklist by which to rate applicants. You can allocate points to each category that meets your criteria, so if a rejected applicant accuses you of discrimination you can show clearly how another applicant was better qualified.

As said before - keep a written record (date, time, subject matter) of all conversations between yourself and applicants and attach it to their forms which will later go into the tenant file.

credit inquiry form

Have a credit check done by a reputable professional company.

The fees charged for such a service are very small compared to unpaid rent or property damages, which may force you to use our free Eviction Forms.

Do not be rushed into a decision by any applicant or by your fear of losing an applicant and not renting your unit quickly. Once you made your decision, notify all applicants whether successful or not.

Encourage rental payments by direct debit order is another of the good tenant screening tips (no more "the check is in the mail") which ensures the rent is paid on time and leaves only the services/utilities bill to be settled separately.

Check up on your property and visit regularly (the tenant will grant you reasonable access in our Free Property Rental Agreement). This gives you the opportunity to check on occupants, damages or any other unwanted activities without violating the Renters Rights. It also offers your tenant the opportunity to discuss any maintenance problems in person and knowing that you stop by frequently may keep your tenants on their toes.

You don't need to become personal friends with your tenants but building up a trusting relationship will go a long way to a good landlord/tenant partnership. If your property investment portfolio is such that you do not have the time to do all this, you can hand over these duties to a reputable Property Management company.

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