The process of tenant screening begins as soon as someone answers your ad for a rental property. You can start gathering information and impressions about them immediately, starting with their attitude and level of courteousness in that first contact and their behavior during a tour of the rental property. You can also use additional tenant screening tools such as a criminal background check or a credit check to further improve your chances of finding a good tenant for your property. What you cannot do is discriminate based on race, gender, family status, nationality, etc.
Here are 5 reasons to do your homework and thoroughly vet every prospective tenant using a full range of tenant screening strategies.
- Avoid an Eviction. This is the number one reason to do tenant screening. The eviction process is costly and time-consuming for the landlord, and chances are you will never recover back rent or receive payment for damages from an evicted tenant.
- Lower Risk of Property Damage. Common wisdom says that you can tell a lot about a person from their car. Many landlords do pay attention to the cleanliness of a prospective tenant’s car and person when they show up to tour a property as an informal part of their tenant screening process. Someone who doesn’t bother to care for their own property is not likely to care for yours either. Renting to this type of person may put you at increased risk of getting stuck with big bills for cleaning or repairs when the tenant eventually moves out.
- Make Sure Tenant will Pay the Rent. Many landlords depend on their rental units for their income, so getting a tenant who doesn’t pay on time can be a huge burden. One way to screen for this problem is to ask for references from prior landlords and then call them to investigate the tenant’s payment history. Another way is to run a credit check as part of your tenant screening. The prospective tenant will have to consent to this. If a credit check shows overwhelming debt, you may be justified in feeling concerned that the person may not always be able to pay you on time.
- Identify Individuals Who May Put Other Tenants at Risk. While you can’t ask tenants if they’ve ever been arrested, you can ask them about criminal convictions. In some states you can’t automatically exclude all convicts from renting from you, but you can exclude individuals whose convictions indicate they may endanger other tenants. For example, you might exclude an individual with a history of violent crimes or one with a series of serious drug convictions. Landlords and property managers with multiple units can conduct criminal background check quickly and easily using the tools available to business owners on backgroundchecks.com. US OneSEARCH is a very popular and comprehensive national criminal background check tool that can find public criminal records created in any state in the union and return a report to the landlord almost instantly.
- Avoid Overly Demanding Tenants. No landlord wants to deal with a picky tenant who is constantly finding fault with the unit, demanding repairs, and threatening to withhold rent. Beware of a prospective tenant who complains throughout their first tour of the property or who tries to negotiate for lower rent based on existing problems with the unit.
Treat Everyone Equally
Remember, as you complete your screening it is vitally important to treat everyone equally—in other words, subject everyone to the same screening process, whether that’s an interview, a credit check, a criminal background check, or all of the above. Also, be sure to familiarize yourself with the tenants’ rights laws in your state to ensure you comply with the law during your tenant screening process.