Potential Tenants: Screen the Hell Out of Them

Okay, the blog title might sound a little extreme, but in the wild world of finding tenants, it’s really not. If someone comes to you and is looking to rent, that’s excellent, right? Income stream will be up, vacancies will be down, and everyone’s happy. All true, but you don’t know a thing about this person. You have no idea if they’ll be a quiet church mouse who will dutifully pay their rent every month, or a wild partier who will force you to get the law involved in an ugly eviction. That’s why screening is so important. And the more screening, the better. Here are the best practices when it comes to tenant screening.

ID, please.
The very first step, before you even grab your keys to start showing vacant units, is to get an ID. The best is, of course, a driver’s license, but state-issued IDs are okay for those who don’t get behind the wheel. Be mindful, though. If a potential tenant drove up to the leasing office and is balking at the idea of showing a license, something’s fishy.

Contact info, please.
Everyone knows someone. Everyone’s got a mom or dad, an aunt, a best friend, a co-worker, somebody who will know how to get in touch with your prospective tenant if they should suddenly up and vanish in the wind. And it’s not a bad idea to call the numbers that are provided to you to be sure they’re not “555” movie-style fakes.

Job and rental references, please.
Once you’ve established who this person is and that there are people who can vouch for them, the next logical step is to make sure they’re drawing a salary somewhere (so they can pay their rent) and find out what past landlords have to say about them. Of course there are exceptions — young folks who have never lived away from home, for example, won’t have any rental references — but there are still things you can check. For example …

Creditworthiness, please.
Knowing beforehand if your prospective tenant pays their bills is a real time-saver. If they don’t pay their bills, they likely won’t pay their rent. It’s also a good thing to know if there’s a history of bankruptcy. Some people have a few dings on their credit for situations that were beyond their control, so be willing to hear them out. But don’t fall for sob stories.

Of course, in all things, deposits are your best friends. They cover you in case someone less than trustworthy slips through the cracks, and they show good faith on the potential renter’s part.

Any other screening techniques that you use for potential tenants?

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photo credit: Bill Gracey via photopin cc