How to Screen Tenants

How to Screen Tenants
24 July 2022
41 min


Pre-selection of tenants prevents misunderstandings in the future related to possible property damage. What’s more, the apartment owners want the rent to be paid on time every month. That is why tenant screening is one of the most important procedures, which is essential for everyone who wants to conclude a new contract in 2022. A good expectant is a person who adheres to the following principles:

  • When moving in, tenants must confirm that they have enough income to pay rent
  • People pay rent on time and have a stable income
  • All tenants take care of the house and do not cause inconvenience
  • People do not engage in illegal activities (such as cannabis farms, human trafficking, or drug trafficking)

A renter inspection is a procedure that, upon successful completion, provides the landlord with key information — criminal liability, accommodation tracking, financial, and rental history of potential lodgers. People can use different tenant screening services that make this task easier. But, in this case, tenant screening is a paid service with a price of 100 dollars. If you want to save money, just use our app. Let’s look at the main techniques that you can use for this.

What is a Tenant Screening & Why Such a Procedure is Important

Concluding another contract, people want to avoid violating their rights. But the tenants’ screening process is an important safety argument. So the apartment owner is trying to get detailed information.  If people prefer digital products, before compiling a tenant verification report, the system analyzes the financial and rental payments of potential candidates and sends a file with an itemized statement. The procedure includes checking various complaints or misunderstandings, 2-3 eviction incidents, and tenants’ criminal records.

Prescreen Tenants Using a Rental Application

As a rule, before settling on the property option they like, tenants look at several properties. The same goes for owners. Sometimes viewing objects can take 2-3 months. This means that tenant screening is associated with 10+ profiles. When signing the contract, it is already difficult to remember what household appliances and furniture were when people viewed the apartment. The same applies to the personal qualities of people who want to move in. But if you use digital tools for tenant screening, some problems can be avoided. This applies to the following:

Lost contacts The use of digital solutions is a way to prevent incidents when the apartment owner fails to contact a potential tenant. Experienced agents always understand that keeping such information at their fingertips is better. If this is not worried in advance, the process of finding the right tenant can take weeks.
Annoying calls to clarify data People who have not decided to rent apartments may consider this as bad manners and negligence. So, it is better to offer tenants screening a simple questionnaire and use digital solutions.
Confusion with data sorting Proper tenant screening is unlikely to be possible without data systematization. A mobile application for such tasks is the most effective tool

The introduction of digital products helps people to save budget and keep efficiency at a high level. In general, the fee for screening potential tenants is from $50 to $100. But the cost varies by location due to laws and conditions. It is important to consider that documents must be accredited by legal organizations like FCRA. Batch reporting makes this procedure less costly, especially for business owners.

A digital tenants screening is essential for entrepreneurs who have 5-7 apartments and retail space at their disposal. Such people often apply for multiple contracts and must pay fees with each approval of an additional contract and referral to a screened tenant. With online tools and advanced solutions, people save money and time.

Use Your Rental Listing to Screen Tenants

The tenant and the landlord conclude an agreement that is best negotiated for a longer period of time. This way, people will save themselves from having to negotiate new terms every time. But this does not mean that apartment owners are prevented from the routine. They will have to order the tenants’ screening anyway. This applies to the following:

  • Criminal record and other problems with the law
  • Availability of loans and debts not repaid on time
  • Family member data

It’s nice when people know that moved-in tenants living in their apartments are trustworthy. To prevent problems, landlords have outsourced their transactions and paid a rental agent or intermediary to manage the property as administrators. But there is also a less expensive way to ensure an uninterrupted rental experience. Just use the monitoring and checking app. With digital solutions, people will significantly speed up the tenant screening process.

Ask Tenant Pre-Screening Questions

Proper verification of the tenant is essential for both parties entering into contracts. Of course, excesses happen, and, unfortunately, misunderstandings cannot be completely ruled out. But if people are meticulous and use the tenant application for rental property, they will be able to avoid misunderstanding. The landlord does not want to deal with a scammer who ends up not paying the rent. A well-conducted survey of potential tenants can prevent many such excesses. Here are the main questions you should ask during the tenants’ screening:

  1. What are the acceptable lease terms?
  2. What household appliances and furniture will be required?
  3. How can people pay rent?
  4. Do rooms need renovation?
  5. Does the tenant want to have pets?

Screen Tenants at the Property Showing

Certification of documents and clarification of information is an important step for anyone who wants to conclude a long-term contract. When people talk about screening rental applicants, they refer to the various criteria and actions taken by the landlord to get detailed data about the applicant. If you do not use digital solutions for the tenants’ screening, it may take 2-3 weeks. The purpose of the tenant screening process is to exclude applicants who are at greater risk of default, property damage, or eviction. If you use the Rental App application, you may get and store the following renter data:

  • A short free interview
  • An eviction history
  • Proof of prospective income
  • A credit check
  • 2-3 employer references

Pre-Screening and Rental Applications

Verification can take a long time if you do not use digital tools and template solutions. Even aspiring entrepreneurs are unlikely to deny this. The tenants’ screening and management steps may take less time if you use the Rental App. Pre-screening will help you eliminate a questionable candidate who does not meet your initial criteria and may not be very interested in renting your property. We’ve come up with three easy tenant screening steps and the best tenant screening questions to ask right now. Pre-selection also improves the overall process by allowing expectations to be set in advance for the rental process.

Run a Credit Report & Background Check

By requiring a tenant for a loan and a background check, enthusiasts who want to effectively use their property can find out more about their guests’ financial status. It’s the best way to provide homeowners with information about their current and past employment to check their income and see if people can afford the agreed rent. Here is the key information you will receive:

  1. Job title
  2. Company name
  3. Average salary
  4. Address, phone, and other contacts of the company

Credit check is critical and should always be included in your algorithm. There are several tenant screening services that people can access after registering. By paying a small fee, you can get complete credit reports which are generated within 3-5 minutes. Credit reports provide a wealth of data about your potential tenants, including the following:

Credit Ratings It’s a numeric rating (300 – 760+) and/or a letter rating (A, B, C, D, E). Most agencies are only willing to cooperate when they see 600 points or the letter C as the minimum requirement for accepting people. This is the defining parameter for most intermediaries. Any score below 600 usually indicates a history of non-payment or late payments. So, if you are very careful about your property and want to prevent misunderstandings, it is better to initially indicate this requirement in the advertisement.
Identity Always asks the tenant for proof of identity documentation with a government-issued photo ID (driver’s license or passport). This is not only the best way to find citizenship, but also the ability to compare with other documents and make sure the tenants’ screening is based on real data.
Current and Past Addresses Check the addresses on the application form and provide your ID and refer to the addresses listed on the credit report. If there are discrepancies between the application, identification, and credit report, that’s a red flag.

It’s a good idea to do your own credit check, as credit reports can be falsified. Using online platforms, people can find out if tenants have a lease agreement with the Landlord’s Credit Bureau. It is an authoritative platform, and you are unlikely to be misled. LCB provides landlords and property managers with access to tenant records through the Front Lobby tool.

Request a Tenant Credit and Background Check

Be aware that it is illegal in some cities to find managers to check a tenant. This means that it will not be so easy to get access to the personal information of possible tenants. Such nuances should be taken into account before the conclusion of each new rental transaction and screen potential tenants. With us, any misunderstandings with tenant applications for a rental property are excluded. This is because we collect information from public resources, use AI to filter data, and guarantee 100% accuracy. Our team can help business owners and ordinary citizens get references from employers or landlords.

What To Do If Your Tenant Has a Criminal History

As part of the screening process, landlords who want to accommodate new guests can access applicants’ criminal records, but must still follow certain rules when using this information. Such data cannot be used for discrimination or unreasonable rent increases. The federal fair housing law has its advantages and disadvantages for both parties when it comes to applicants with a criminal record. So, if your refusal is unreasonable, it is illegal. Here are the main features of the tenants screening:

  • People have the opportunity to prove their case (people with certain drug-related convictions have less protection).
  • A reasonable security deposit for tenants or property is not discrimination

Verify Income & Employment

Try not to accept cash payments. In some way, this will facilitate rental property screening. It is better to stipulate that all rental payments are made by bank transfer. Thus, it will be possible to find out some personal data. When it comes to employment and recommendations from employers, the following is important:

  1. Permanent employment. Just google the first and last name and try to find a portfolio or CV on a job search site. If the person who wants to come to your house changes jobs more than 2 times a year, or recently quit, be vigilant. Having found out such information, you can ask some leading questions and understand whether the indicated data is reliable.
  2. Employer authority. For those who want to find out the maximum amount of information with the tenant’s screening, this parameter is decisive. This is because apartment owners can understand if the applicant has a stable income. If you know the names of the companies, it will not be difficult to find out additional information.

When a tenant does not meet 100% of the financial screening criteria, but you would like to rent your apartment to this particular applicant, offer an alternative — a deposit. 1 month is a standard option, but often apartment owners are ready to move in problematic tenants only with an advance payment of 2 to 3 months is possible.

How Should You Reach Out to a Tenant’s Employer?

The best way to reach out to the tenant’s employer is to send a clarification request via email. This is the standard way for most people. Some company owners prefer to answer questions about their employees over the phone and send files via instant messengers. Although, it won’t be a problem. If you don’t know how to get to this part of the process, you can use the Google search engine to find out more employer contacts. Before calling and asking questions, do the following:

  • Find out if the company is reputable or the business is associated with questionable transactions
  • Try to find the profiles of several employees to understand the typical portrait of a subordinate. Just look at a few photos to understand it.
  • If the company has reviews, check to see if customers are writing about the negligence of a particular employee who wants to move into your home.

What Questions Should You Ask a Tenant’s Employer?

You can do your own tenants screening or install property management software platforms. Using our application is the best way to optimize the process for free. When a tenant fills out the application in the Renta App, our system automatically starts the verification process. The bot contacts the previous homeowners and clarifies the information. People can also store loans, and criminal and eviction reports on the cloud service. Here are the important questions that any chatbot can ask:

  • Can you confirm that a certain person has been working for you since [date]?
  • What are the responsibilities of a particular person in the company?
  • Can you confirm the salary amount?

According to a 1971 study by Albert Mehrabian, body language (non-verbal) makes up 55% of our communication. This is followed by the timbre of the voice (38%) and the content of what was said — about 7%. So, it is much better to ask questions directly than to send a questionnaire. So, a call via Viber or WhatsApp would be a good idea. Comparing employers’ responses about the specific candidate for whom the tenant’s screening is being carried out, you can clarify all nuances.

Simplify the Landlord Employment Verification Process

No doubt, the majority of entrepreneurs who are involved in the rental business are unlikely to do without digital tools and online platforms. The same goes for the tenant’s screening. If you contact your employers, they will confirm that your guests are employed. But that’s only half the battle. Ask them how long a specific person has been employed. As a landlord, you need to know if a tenant can pay rent, so you need to verify your income. In addition to the loan application, it is advisable to request the following documents:

  • W-2
  • Payment form
  • Salary offer letter

A tenant due diligence includes completing a credit report, background checks, and seeking references from an employer. Storing such data has become easier. This is because experienced developers have created hundreds of template solutions for fast data collection. With such tools, the tenants screening narrows down to a few clicks.

Check Previous Addresses, Landlords & Eviction History

Even before the conclusion of the lease agreement, the parties must leave contact data in order to be in touch with each other in case additional details are clarified. Preliminary tenant screening can be carried out exactly by phone number. People can obtain information from public sources on the Internet (Google, Facebook, or other social networks). A phone call to a candidate can also be useful for a brief introduction.

Give the tenants screening the opportunity to reveal their life story and give an idea of ​​their current situation. You will encounter responses such as “I’m moving out of my house”, “I’m moving out of work” or “We’re saving up for real estate.” Regardless of your guests’ reaction, you can figure out if they are looking for a long or short-term rental and determine if they are the right fit for you.

You can also contact the employer to compare payrolls that were provided as proof of income. It is easy to falsify one payslip but, if several are requested, it becomes more difficult to do it. This also applies when an annual report is requested. With a few phone calls, you can clarify if “paper reality” is really true.

The Main Five Questions to Ask Prior Landlords

Screening your potential tenants before they move into your home is the backbone for your peace of mind and security. Some understanding of who will be settling into an apartment should be one of your first concerns as a homeowner. So, try to ask as many substantive questions as possible and get detailed answers. Here are the most important things for the tenants screening:

Why are people moving? As a rule, people have several answers — the desire to change the situation, moving in connection with a change of work, and marital status. If homeowners immediately specify the reason, they can avoid misunderstandings during the tenants’ screening.
Whether it was concluded with a previous employer a lease for X months? An affirmative answer is a sign that people do not have debt problems.
What is the current rent? It is important to address this issue directly, as this will allow certain conclusions to be drawn and the well-being of the guests’ families.
Where will their tenants work/study? As a rule, people who have no problems with employers and are satisfied with their earnings willingly tell about all the details. This also applies to previous tenants, who probably know a lot about employment and how this affects the timeliness of utility payments.
Do people play musical instruments? Often during the tenants’ screening, it turns out that potential guests do not always clarify such information in advance. So, it is worth asking whether there have been misunderstandings in the past about this

There is no general screening process that applies to all cases. If people manage 10+ properties and don’t have time to get to know all tenants well, it may be enough for them to verify their identity, employment status, age, or gender. But if people seem suspicious, additional calls and verification will be needed. That is why the time that homeowners spend on tenant screening can vary greatly. Someone will cope with the task in 1 day, and someone will need a week.

Why Should I Reach Out to the Tenant’s Current and Previous Landlords?

With surveys of landlords, homeowners can confirm that their guests earn enough to pay on time and keep the property — kitchen, hallway, toilet, other rooms — in good condition. So you should request 2-3 apartment owners for the tenants screening. Previous landlords who, of course, remember all their guests and willingly tell their stories are more likely to provide honest recommendations, unlike a current landlord who may want to release a troubled tenant.

If the tenant listed a property management company, you can search for the contacts on Google and call the phone number found online. Knowing any issues with a previous landlord or rental agent can be a good indicator of what a tenant expects when renting a new apartment.

What Additional Questions Can I Ask a Prior Landlord?

The verification process usually involves contacting previous employers and landlords. This is the best way to confirm that the information provided by the tenant is accurate. As with proof of employment, landlords are not required to answer all your questions, as they may have legal problems or misunderstandings with the previous guests. But there are standard questions that you should definitely ask with the tenants’ screening:

  1. Can you confirm that people rented an apartment or house from you, and they paid in a timely manner?
  2. Did a specific person harass other tenants or neighbors?
  3. Has the tenant taken reasonable care of the leased property?
  4. Was the premises clean and in good condition when they left?

Your tenancy criteria and screening checklist are 2 great tools for weeding out potential unwanted guests. It’s best to be prepared and ask questions before you show a property. Once you start getting phone calls from guests who want to find out more about the property, you can ask the interested party if a quick phone call can be made to see if the property is right for them. If the applicants have doubts, this is an occasion to conduct the additional tenants screening.

What Kind of Past Tenant Behavior Is Good or Bad?

Renters usually contact an agent about 30 to 60 days before they need a new home. This means that the entire tenants’ screening process takes place within a limited timeframe. A property show is probably the only time you meet a potential guest. So, before making a decision, you should pay attention to the following behavior:

  • Your guests agree to complete the rental application
  • Does the person arrive on time?
  • Agrees to credit and background checks
  • Does a person ask additional questions? (stays interested and involved)
  • Is people discussing progress in the process

If you are entering into a long-term lease contract, you will need to settle all the details before tenants screening. Try to get as much information as possible, and feel free to ask people about their habits. This is the only way you will be able to avoid the criticism of other guests and neighbors after the arrival of new residents.

Determine If You Want to Move to the Next Step of Screening

Your rental ad is a document that describes how you find people and is the first point of contact between you and the people who might see your ad. The success of the undertaking depends on how thoughtful the criteria are and how they are provided. To attract possible guests, homeowners must write a catchy headline, describe the property effectively, and upload great photos.

Once you have 10 to 15 good quality leads (as is the case with candidates who answered the previous questions satisfactorily), it’s time to take each candidate through the tenants screening process. The requirements for tenants are essential. So, you must describe the screening steps. If you provide a detailed guide, you will be able to eliminate misunderstandings.

Interview Applicants & Ask Screening Questions

The pre-screening process, especially the credit check, is a great landlord tool that provides important information about your future tenants, allows you to find the best guests for your property, and run a profitable business. If people use digital tools for the tenants’ screening, they can greatly simplify the task. But even so, homeowners can not do without a personal meeting. During the interview, you should clarify the following:

  1. Long-term customer expectations
  2. Willingness to sign a contract
  3. Rental experience

Meet each candidate individually rather than having an open house. You will be able to communicate with them, and it is better to pre-check them individually if you are not distracted by the simultaneous appearance of several parties. Show details of the property that may be important or even decisive. Hiding things that might turn off potential tenants will only lead to frustration and complaints after the move, so be honest about everything.

Your Tenant’s Contact Information

Google is your best tool for checking contacts and prospective renters. Enter the applicant’s name and look at their social media profiles. Intermediate checks will not be superfluous. Let the tenant know that you or the manager/agent will be calling to complete the tenant’s screening process. So, it is better to clarify all contacts in advance. Just ask questions or ask to fill out an online form.

Ask Important Tenant Screening Questions

The best way to gather information on your rental application is to ask questions. Key points people want to know to vary depending on the information they need. But as a general rule, the following questions should be asked:

Have you ever been evicted? Always consider the circumstances and give the tenant the opportunity to explain their situation. It’s about something people have no control over, such as a global pandemic.
Have you ever been convicted of a crime? A misdemeanor is a serious offense that usually carries a prison sentence of at least one year. But, you should not assign rejection just because the person answered “yes” to the question. This is because the wrongdoing may not be significant, and you should clarify this. This means the tenants’ screening will be needed.

Verify the Information, a Tenant Provided

Ask tenants for basic information — FULL name, email address, and phone number. But you must be scrupulous and not take anyone’s word for it. Having contacts of the applicant, you should check them through Google and social networks. With digital tools, homeowners can achieve the following improvements:

  1. Speed up the tenants’ screening process
  2. Opportunity to clarify contacts of a large number of interested parties
  3. Listing contact history with employers and previous landlords

As a landlord, whether you have hired a property manager or prefer to run your property privately, you will want to find the perfect guest. To ensure 100% efficiency, it is enough just to ask the right questions. The use of AI and digital tools greatly facilitates the tenants’ screening process.

Rental History

We recommend that you request at least 5 years of residential history. You are unlikely to be able to clarify all the details to find out the habits of your future guests if you specify the information only for 6-12 months. Be especially meticulous in this regard, otherwise, the tenants’ screening process will not be effective. So people must provide the following information:

  • Home address
  • Name and contact details of the landlord
  • Dates of stay
  • Reason to leave

With the digital tools and platforms, this process is greatly simplified. Moreover, chatbots can be used to collect most data. After providing the information, AI systems will automatically contact the previous owner of the tenant to verify the data. All you have to do is log in to your landlord account to see the comments and make sure the likely guests are the perfect fit for your rental property.

How to Screen Co-signers

A guarantor is essentially another person under the lease who is financially responsible for payments. If a tenant has no chance of getting a loan or their income is too low, engaging intermediaries is a great way to ensure that payments are made on time. On the lease application, you must ask the applicant if they have a signatory confidant. To complete the tenants screening process, specify the following:

  • Contacts
  • Legal status
  • Solvency

Checking the guarantors is extra work, but it increases your confidence that you will receive your money. The co-signer is responsible for the full amount of the rent if the tenant is unable to pay.

Use a Comprehensive Rental Application

You should not take the word of all the information provided by the candidate. Always take the time to check all the personal data yourself or hire a research firm to do it for you. It all starts with asking the right tenant screening questions to get you started on your search for the perfect tenant. When it comes to surveys, the use of mobile apps and online platforms should not be underestimated. If you use our digital product, you will hardly deny the following benefits:

  • Affordable prices and the ability to use the tool for free
  • Complexity of the tenants’ screening process
  • Easy report integration

Accept or Reject the Applicants After Screening

One way or another, the tenant’s screening process will be subjective. This means that after clarification of additional nuances, the landlord has to make decisions based on intuition.

Denying an Applicant After Tenant Screening

It is illegal to discriminate in housing rent. Firstly, check the law and make sure that your selection criteria and preliminary questions you ask potential tenants comply with local laws and regulations. Here are the main reasons for lawsuits:

  • Familial Status
  • Sex
  • Race
  • National Origin
  • Religion

5 Tips on How to Screen Tenants for Rental Properties

The most popular ways to search for housing are specialized sites, advertising on social networks, and the services of professional realtors. If you want to quickly find a suitable apartment with legal guarantees, it is worth contacting real estate agents. The services of professionals in choosing an apartment are not free — the amount from 40 to 100% of the monthly rent. Moreover, be prepared for the tenants’ screening. This means that you should anticipate the responses of employers and previous landlords.

1. Customize Your Tenant Screening Questions

Much of your workload can be reduced and streamlined by screening tenants first. The pre-interview, which can be as long as 15 minutes, saves hours of real estate demos/application processing for people who don’t qualify.

2. Make the Screening Process Easy for the Tenant

Don’t waste your time, and that of a potential tenant, showing an apartment, filling out applications, and checking credit reports if you can tell right away that they don’t match the parameters. This is unfair to you and the applicant. So, it is better to make the tenants’ screening clear and simple.

3. Work With a Real Estate Agent

Compiling a list of questions for potential tenants can help people get the information they need and conduct a fair and unbiased analysis. After people submit an application, they must organize the tenants’ screening and selection process for the applicant. By working with agencies, most enthusiasts can save time and money by attracting only the best tenants through the pre-screening procedure. Mediators will help weed out candidates who are not suitable for you.

4. Market Your Property Online

If you want to ensure that the screen tenant is done well, it’s worth using advanced tools. We are talking about online platforms that make life much easier for both parties entering into a rental contract.

5. Use Property Management Software to Screen Tenants

Request processing, credential validation, and background checks take time and money. If everyone who saw your rental ad applied immediately, you could have a large pool of applicants to choose from, but going through them all would take a lot of time. So, you should use digital tools to sort candidates and the tenants’ screening.

Bottom Line

No doubt, screening rental applicants is a process that requires responsibility. Especially when it comes to the business. People who make money by renting apartments are unlikely to do without digital solutions. One of the best real estate management platforms is our app.

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