How to Screen Tenants Effectively and Efficiently
by Tina Galve
Dec 01, 2016
If you're in the rental business, you've probably experienced uneasiness or even anxiety at some point whenever you have a vacancy. Resist the urge of renting out to the first person who shows interest in your property just to avoid vacancies. You shouldn't entrust your property to just anyone.
You're probably familiar with horror stories from other landlords (stolen furniture, incurred damages, scammers, bouncing checks, etc). You wouldn't want the same thing to happen to you, not after spending thousands or millions of your hard earned money to own and furnish the property. To help you avoid these problems, you need to screen your tenants properly.
According to John Nuzzolese, "95% of your tenant problems can be eliminated in the screening process." To save you from headaches in the future, read on how to screen your tenants effectively and efficiently.
1.) Find ways to disqualify your prospect before you can show the property
I know it sounds counter-intuitive of what we want (which is finding a renter for your property) but looking for ways to disqualify tenants in the early stages can save you a lot of time later on. You wouldn't want to waste your time showing your property to someone who's only so-so interested or who may not be a good fit to rent your property.
Screening your applicants should begin upon first contact, whether through phone call or email. Come up with qualifying questions such as rental term, preferred date of moving in, number of people who will be staying, and if they smoke and have pets. You may also ask them for their reason for moving in. If they're moving because of legitimate concerns (i.e. to be near their workplace or school), there is a likelier chance that they will renew their contract and will most likely take care of your property. Be upfront with your rental price, security deposits, deadline for payments and other important facts that may help you disqualify your prospect.
Don't worry about turning down leads this early. It's better to weed out right away so that you can focus your time and energy on prospects that have higher chances of becoming your tenants.
2.) Set an appointment to view the property
If a prospective tenant meets the criteria and shows serious interest in renting your property, proceed to setting an appointment with him to show the place. Since you'll be meeting face-to-face, you may want to take this opportunity to assess your applicants even more. For example, take note of their appearance. I know we shouldn't judge a book by its cover but their appearance can give a subtle hint of their lifestyle; an unkept appearance most likely has an unkempt lifestyle and home.
You also have to take into consideration that you'll be dealing with them for months to come so you have to watch out for signs if they seem difficult to deal with. If any criticism comes up while inspecting the place, ask yourself if they are raising valid concerns or just coming up with reasons to negotiate the price.
3.) Have your prospects fill up a rental application form
This isn't mandatory but asking your prospects to fill up a rental application form can help a lot in the screening process. Your application form should ask for details like full name, birthday, address, phone number, name and phone number of person to contact in case of emergency, Social Security, TIN and driver's licence numbers. It should also include employment details, income and credit history. You may ask them to include references of their current company (you can call up the HR to verify facts of their employment and income) and past landlords (have they been problematic tenants?).
You can also do a credit report on your prospective tenants. Just make sure you get their approval for background checking and that you'll be collecting a screening fee by having them sign an agreement (this can be included in your application form).
Keeping application forms can also serve as reference if they ask for an explanation why their rental application was turned down
4.) Go over the lease agreement with your tenant
Screening doesn't end after you've approved an application. Until your prospect signs the lease term agreement and seals the deal, you should continue screening and decide if you're making the right decision. Go over the lease agreement with your tenant and make sure he understands the items stated in the contract before you let him sign. If he argues on any item or raises some concern on meeting payment deadlines (and is even uncomfortable with late payment charges), consider the deal off. It's better to look for another tenant than settle on the wrong one.
Happy Renting and good luck in screening tenants!
Got some useful tips? Add your thoughts on the comments below. :)