You’ve got a rental property. You’ve likely done a minor remodel and marketed the property to attract new renters. It’s safe to say you’ve paid your dues. And the only thing you still need is the ideal tenant. You know the one. They pay their rent on time, never have noise complaints, and leave the place in a better condition than when they moved in. But you’ll settle for paying rent on time and not trashing the place. But how do you find that tenant?
Experienced landlords know the secret to finding the perfect renter is the tenant screening process. Here are five quick tips you’ll need before filling your next vacancy.
Tenant Screening Checklist
Your tenant screening process should, at minimum, include the following points.
Filling Out an Application for Rental Properties
The days of relying on verbal contracts for renters are long gone. You’ll need a professional rental application either via paper or online. The application should prompt the following info.
- Current address and contact info
- 3-5 years’ worth of prior addresses
- Social security number
- Job and length of employment
- Marital Status
- List of dependents
You’ll also want to include a separate document that explicitly asks permission from the tenant to run a background check. This is due to Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) laws regarding how private information is obtained and used. While credit reports always require permission, other background checks may not, depending on your state. However, you should always start a rental relationship off on the right foot by being transparent about your tenant screening process – even if you don’t have to.
Ask Tenant Screening Questions
Apart from tenant screening applications, there are a few questions you may want to ask potential tenants to cover your bases and ensure they’re a good fit. A few questions you can ask are:
- Are any pets moving in with you? Even if your rental is pet-friendly, knowing if they are bringing pets, what kind, and how many is a good idea. This gives you an opportunity to review any policies you have or ensure they aren’t bringing in a zoo,
- How many people will live on the property? The amount of people living on the property can affect the cost of utilities and potential legal problems, as some laws limit the number of people per bedroom of the rental.
- Can I run a credit and background check? A credit and background check will allow you to see if the tenant pays their bills on time or has a history of fraud or violence.
- Do you require parking or other amenities? Ensuring you and your tenant are on the same page about the rental is essential. Discuss if the amenities cost extra or how many parking spaces are available.
Why are you moving? This question may seem personal, but it can help give you some insight into your potential tenant: Were they kicked out of their previous residence, are they moving for a job, or looking for more space?
Get Proof of Identity of Your Potential Tenant
Best practices state you should get a copy of your potential tenant’s government-issued photo I.D. and social security during the application submission. And given the rise of A.I. images, online applications should still require tenants to provide a copy of their I.D. in person. A savvy landlord will keep the application and I.D. verification on file for as long as legally allowed, just in case. However, it also becomes your responsibility to ensure tenants’ private information is stored securely.
Perform a Background Check
With the information in the application and I.D. verification, you have everything you need to perform a routine background check. The most essential backgrounds for tenant screening include arrest records, additional I.D. verification, employment verification, and social media checks. As mentioned, you’ll need express permission from the renter before you can conduct any form of background. Trust the tenant screening process. If a potential renter doesn’t permit you to conduct a history check, they may not be the best renter for you.
Perform Tenant Credit Checks
Credit checks are an essential part of the tenant screening process. You’ll find out how they handle monthly bills, if they’ve ever been bankrupt, and other information that lets you make an informed decision. Keep in mind that FCRA regulations do apply to rentals. That means you’ll need to provide a copy of the credit report to the potential renter and ensure they know what variable in their report caused the decline, if applicable.
Gather Eviction Reports and Other Information from Previous Landlords
Do your due diligence and reach out to a candidate’s former landlords. Ask about evictions, conduct, and any issues the tenant might’ve had. Some tenants may attempt to defraud you by listing their friends and family members as past landlords for a glowing review. Avoid this by looking up the contact information of prior landlords yourself. As for tenants with no rental history or who have only rented from family, you may need to request a co-signer. Alternatively, consider reaching out to their employment for a character reference.
Tenant Screening Services
Tenant screening reports should come from reliable, trusted sources. Why? Because if the service you use makes an error, you could miss out on a quality tenant. Or, equally likely, you may end up renting to a less-than-stellar renter. For example, individuals with common names like John Walker, Sara Smith, etc., often have background checks that include information from individuals with the same name. Other errors can occur if social security numbers are juxtaposed. The best way to avoid these errors is by using a trusted source of tenant screenings like KarmaCheck and cross-referencing background info by running address checks with arrest records.
Protect your rental properties by getting the best tenants and the best tenant screening service. Reach out to KarmaCheck to explore your options.