5 Tenant Screening Tips to Help You Find a Great Renter

Posted by Brook Walsh on Friday, March 6th, 2015 at 7:36pm.


One of the dreaded tasks of any landlord is finding a great tenant for your rental property. Tenant screening is a critical process, and when done correctly can eliminate the majority of common bad tenant issues. Add these helpful tips to your tenant screening checklist, and find the properly qualified tenant of your dreams.

Screen over the phone

What many landlords fail to realize is that the tenant screening process starts at first contact, which is typically by phone or e-mail. Before you proceed to a showing, screen for potential red flags by getting answers to the following questions:

  • Name
  • Contact info
  • Reason for moving
  • Intended rental term
  • Total number of people renting, and their relationship to the potential renter (family of four, schoolmates, co-workers, etc.)
  • References from other landlords
  • Smoking habits if any

When you ask these questions up front, you avoid wasting time by showing your property to an unqualified renter. If your potential renter has trouble answering these questions, then you may want to think twice about renting to them.

Google prospective tenants

Perform a Google search of their name and get access to information that may help with the tenant screening process. If they have a criminal history, this information is readily available on online public records. Also check their social media profiles for some telling info that may not surface during the phone screening process like their interests, relationship status, and lifestyle choices. A word of caution, Federal Fair Housing Rules protect tenants from discrimination based on sex, race or color, nationality, religion, familial status or disability, so make sure that you are in adherence.

Look at a renters work history

A renter's work history can tell you a lot about the lifestyle they live. Have they worked in one place for a long time, or do they switch their employment often? If your candidate likes to move around, they may not be an ideal tenant as their income instability could lead to late payments or a short-term lease. On the other hand, if the candidate tends towards long-term employment, you can expect a steady stream of income, as well as a greater likelihood of commitment on the lease.

Call previous landlords for references

Talking to a potential tenant's previous landlords can shed some light on their rental history. If the candidate was a problem tenant in the past, their landlord would probably know best. Some questions to consider asking:

  • Were they evicted? If they left on their own accord, did they give plenty of notice?
  • Did they pay their rent on time?
  • Did you receive any complaints from the neighbors?
  • Was there any damage to the property during the lease?
  • Would you rent to them again?

Make sure you talk to at least two former landlords, as the current one may be less forthcoming about a bad tenant if it's in their best interests.

Require a co-signer for first-time renters

In some cases, you'll be screening potential tenants with no rental history, like a student or a renter recently relocated from another country. In this instance, protect your interests by requiring a co-signer for the rental agreement. Not only will this hold your tenants accountable, but the co-signer could also act as an unlikely ally should problems or disputes arise down the road.

Looking to match your rental property to a great tenant? We match landlords with potential tenants, so they are making the most out of their investment.

"I'd like to help you find the right price and the right time to make your next move a successful one. Send me a message or give me a call at 231.459.3179 to learn more today."

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Brook Walsh is from Northern Michigan and understands lifestyle based real estate investing which is one of the reasons he's chosen to pursue his dream of helping real estate investors with their home buying needs. Learn more about Brook or start your home search now.

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