Finding trustworthy individuals who will treat your property respectfully, pay rent on time, and adhere to the lease terms is vital for long-term success as a landlord. Responsible tenants ensure the preservation of your property's value and contribute to a peaceful living environment for other residents.

The best way to find responsible tenants who are likely to become long-term renters is through an effective tenant screening process. That’s why we’ve created this comprehensive guide to help you easily navigate the tenant screening process.

Here are six simple steps to follow to effectively screen tenants before you start renting out your property:

Step 1: Define Tenant Screening Criteria

Before diving into the screening process, it's essential to have a clear understanding of the ideal tenant profile for your rental property. Here are five key attributes to look for when defining your criteria for screening tenants:

  • Financial stability
  • Employment history
  • Rent payment track record
  • Criminal background check
  • History of responsible behavior as a tenant

Step 2: Create a Pre-Screening Application

To effectively screen tenants, designing an application form that collects all the necessary information is important. The form should adhere to relevant fair housing laws and regulations governing tenant screening. To make sure you're adhering to fair housing laws, you'll need to ask for the same information from all of the applicants that you screen. Here are the key sections to include:

Personal Details

  • Full name
  • Contact information (phone number, email address)
  • Date of birth

Employment Information

  • Current employer
  • Job title
  • Length of employment
  • Monthly income

Rental History

  • Previous addresses
  • Landlord contact details (name, phone number, email)
  • Length of time they spent at each address
  • Reasons for moving from each previous residence

a blond landlord in a grey sweater researches rental market updates on their laptop while having a cup of coffee

Pet Information

If you allow pets, include a section to gather details such as the type, breed, and size of the pet(s).

Consent for Credit and Background Checks

Include a statement where the prospective tenants authorize the landlord or property manager to conduct background checks and generate a credit report. By collecting this information through a well-designed application form, you can effectively assess prospective tenants and make informed decisions during the process.

Step 3: Verify Tenant Income and Employment

For several important reasons, verifying prospective tenant income and employment is crucial during the screening process. Firstly, landlords and property managers can assess the applicant's financial stability. By confirming their income, it becomes possible to determine whether they have the means to pay rent and fulfill their financial obligations consistently.

Moreover, renters with stable employment histories are more likely to be consistent and reliable when maintaining the rental property, leading to fewer maintenance issues down the line.

Remember that sometimes applicants may provide irrelevant or unhelpful references. Therefore, it is crucial to verify the provided information and conduct thorough background checks to ensure accurate assessments of the applicant's income and employment.

Fair Housing Laws and landlord-tenant laws require landlords to request the same information and follow the same screening processes for all applicants.

Step 4: Check Their Rental History

Reach out to the applicant's current and previous landlords to obtain references. By speaking directly with the landlords, you can gain valuable information about the applicant's overall tenancy, including their adherence to the lease terms, promptness in payments, and any issues that may have arisen during their tenancy.

a landlord in a brown sweater prepares an eviction notice on their laptop for a tenant

During your conversation with their landlords, ask about the tenant's rental payment history. Ask if they paid rent on time, consistently, and in full. Additionally, gather information about how well the applicant maintained the rental property. Did they take care of the property, report maintenance issues promptly, and fulfill their responsibilities as a tenant?

Furthermore, ask about any lease violations, damage, noise complaints, or conflicts with neighbors. These insights will help you evaluate the applicant's suitability as a prospective tenant and make an informed decision.

Step 5: Conduct a Credit Check

After everything is done, it's time to check the applicant's credit score. A credit report provides information about the applicant's payment history, outstanding debts, and overall creditworthiness. This helps determine whether they have a track record of meeting their financial obligations, including rent payments.

A good credit score and history demonstrate a tenant’s ability to manage their finances and suggest a lower risk of defaulting on rent. Conversely, a negative credit history may raise concerns about their financial stability and ability to fulfill their financial commitments.

Step 6: Make a Final Decision

It's time to make a well-informed choice after collecting and reviewing all the necessary information. Assessing whether the prospective tenants meet the rental criteria, demonstrates financial stability, and have a positive rental history are key factors to consider.

person working on their laptop

Additionally, feedback from previous landlords and personal references can provide valuable insights into the applicant's character and reliability. It’s important to be compliant with fair housing laws throughout the application and decision-making process.

By thoroughly evaluating all the relevant information and considering these factors, you can make a confident and fair decision in selecting the most suitable tenant for your rental, thus fostering a positive and successful landlord-tenant relationship.

Bottom Line

These screening measures help minimize potential risks, such as payment issues, damage, or lease violations while promoting a stable rental environment for all of your renters.

At McCourt Real Estate & Property Management, we understand the importance of thorough tenant screening and are here to find you the right tenants for your rental properties. Contact us today to learn more about our services and how we can help you streamline the tenant screening process for a successful rental experience.