Screening Your Prospective Tenant

The type of applicant you attract to your property is contingent upon a number of factors. The neighborhood, cleanliness of the property, rental asking price and your marketing methods are just a few things that dictate the quality of an applicant. Starting with a good applicant is the fist step in landing a quality tenant. A quality tenant is not just someone that pays the rent on time, but, also respects the property and the other tenants in the building. That is where good screening comes in.

Screening a prospective tenant is not pure science. It is a combination of ordering and understanding the appropriate reports available, verifying the information provided by the applicant, and ultimately a judgment call based upon a big picture view of the information provided and the applicant himself.

First, the reports that are available today are a tremendous help. A basic credit report or decision based upon a credit report is not the end all, but certainly should weigh heavily in making the final determination. The credit report will show, at a minimum, the applicant’s ability and willingness to commit to financial obligations. This will immediately tell you a great deal about a person. Eviction and criminal background reports are important for the obvious reasons that allowing someone to rent with a troubled history may not be the best choice for any property manager. Probably the most important report available today is those that check for fraud. Stolen identity is a huge problem today and protecting yourself from renting to someone that is not who they say they are is critical.

Verifying the information on the application can take some time but is well worth it. Confirm the employment and banking information. When it comes to current landlord, it is best to ask to see a current rent receipt. Calling a landlord for a recommendation may not always get an honest response, particularly if the current landlord is anxious to see the tenant move out.

Ultimately the decision to rent to an applicant is made from a variety of factors, not the least of is your “gut feeling”. Generally, if everything checks out but the prospective tenant is in a rush to move in, pays in cash, or can not provide you with sufficient documentation or confirmation for a few days, you probably want to hold off giving him the keys.


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