7 Not-So-Obvious Ways to Thoroughly Screen Tenants

Dec 9, 2020

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When it comes to rental properties, landlords and owners are faced with a variety of different issues when it comes to property management.

Besides handling standard maintenance concerns, they also have to worry about dealing with tenants and whether or not they'll be able to collect rent on time.

Each year, thousands of landlords have to go through the process of evicting non-paying tenants. Between court and legal fees, the entire event can cost thousands of dollars. Not to mention, these issues can take months to resolve.

If you're considering buying a rental property and managing tenants, then one of the most important jobs you'll have is making sure you perform a good tenant screening.

To assist with this, we've come up with a list of 7 not-so-obvious ways to thoroughly screen tenants.

Here are 7 Ways To Screen Tenants

1. Check if the Applicant has an Eviction Record

One of the best ways for landlords to thoroughly screen tenants is to obtain an eviction history report. You can hire a third party service to do this for you, and they will provide info about their credit, criminal history and eviction records.

Alternatively, the most direct way to find this info is to check court records by finding your state's website and searching for the tenants name. In order for a tenant to be evicted, a landlord has to file with the superior court where the tenant resides. While this may take some time to find, this information is public record so you should be able to find your answer.

2. Call Several Previous Landlords

One of the best ways to determine if a tenant is good tenant is to call several of their previous landlords. You will want to call more than one landlord if available, so that you can get several opinions of the tenant.

While one landlord might have raving reviews of the tenant, another may have horror stories of late payments and damages. Maximize your options to make sure this tenant is a good fit for your rental property.

3. Ask to see Cleared Past Rent Checks

Requesting cleared, past rent checks (front and back) will help you confirm:

  • To whom the tenant is currently paying rent
  • If the amount they claim to be paying matches what's shown on the cleared rental checks, and if the amount is the same from month to month.
  • The day of the month that checks are getting cleared by the bank. If checks are clearing between the 5-8th of each month, then you can safely assume the payments are being made by the first.

4. Request Photos of Pets

If a tenant is bringing a pet with them, it can be a good idea to ask for photos of the animal before they move in.

By getting a photo beforehand, this will ensure that the Chihuahua you agreed to allow on the property doesn't suddenly turn into an aggressive Rottweiler on move-in day.

5. Charge Applications Fees

Application fees cover the costs of obtaining screening reports, but they also help to gauge the level of commitment of a potential tenant. It's a small, but very important measure in reducing the number of applicants that back out of the deal and filtering the initial applicants to those who are more serious.

If for some reason the potential tenant changes their mind about renting the property, you will at least ensure that your costs are covered when you charge an application fee.

6. Get a Copy of Their Driver's License on File

Getting copies of driver's licenses is one way to ensure that you thoroughly screen tenants. Obtaining this information allows you to verify the applicant's address against other documentation from the application process and ensure they are who they say they are.

It's an important step that helps you verify their identity and get a clearer picture of the individual that may be renting your unit.

7. Verify the Terms of the Agreement

Be sure that you and your tenant have a "meeting of the minds" in terms of what you are both expecting. Yes, this information should be outlined in the lease, but there is always the chance that you may have missed something or that the tenant misunderstands some of the details.

One additional step you can take is to send the tenant a "Rental Acceptance Term Email," which includes a summary of the terms included in the lease, along with rules and regulations, and a tenant expectations handbook. This way you can be sure that the tenant has seen the terms of the agreement twice, so the rules should be clear.

Some other last few ways to thoroughly screen tenants include verifying employment and calling previous landlords. Be sure to do your due diligence upfront, so that you don't end up with a lousy tenant.

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