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4 Screening Tips for Potential Tenants

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Sep. 3 2020, Updated 3:42 a.m. ET

Screening a potential tenant can be a lengthy process. You don’t want to skimp on the application process prior to letting someone new move into your rental space. Your property is important to you, and a hasty approval process may result in a tenant who could damage the space, fail to pay rent, or refuse to follow your rules and restrictions.

If you want to fully vet a potential new tenant prior to move-in, follow these four screening tips to ensure you know exactly who you’re allowing to live in your rental property.

#1: Verify Their Income Sources

Most rental applications require some information about income, but neglecting to fully investigate this part of the process can result in unpaid rent, bills, or even an eviction.

If you want to feel confident in your screening process, make sure to get all the proper information needed to verify an applicant’s income. Some steps that can be taken to do this may include:

  • Asking for annual income on the application
  • Requiring employers email and phone number
  • Contacting the applicant’s employer and verifying the information given
  • If the tenant is moving, make sure they list a job nearby
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Double checking that your potential new tenant is telling the truth about their income and employment status will ensure there’s no surprises when rent is due.

#2: Contact Their Previous Landlords

The best way to get an insight on your potential tenants real life experiences with renting is by contacting their previous landlords.

Most rental applications ask renters to list their most recent address, but in order to conduct a thorough screening you’ll want to incorporate two other elements:

  • Ask For Contact Information – An address isn’t going to reveal much when it comes to a tenant’s record. Make sure to require an email and phone number for their previous landlord that will allow you to ask any necessary questions about the applicant’s rental history.
  • Require More Than One Previous Address – If you really want to be thorough, ask for the applicant’s two most recent addresses. This will give you a deeper knowledge of your new tenant’s relationship with their previous landlords.
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#3: Run a Credit Report

Simply asking for your tenant’s credit score on their application is not enough. While this leaves room for applicants to lie, others may not even be aware of their actual credit score.

It’s best to run a credit check yourself when screening a potential tenant. A credit report for landlords can be done online. When considering an applicant based on credit, you’ll need to understand what range is acceptable for approval. Credit scores can typically be classified as so:

  • Below 560 – This is considered a very low credit score. If an applicant’s report determines that their credit falls within this range, you may want to reconsider approving them. They are most likely in debt and could potentially be at risk for garnished wages, which can result in loss of income and ultimately unpaid rent.
  • 560-650 – A credit score within this range is still considered poor by most lenders’ standards. If a potential tenant’s credit score falls within these figures, be cautious of approving their application without asking any further questions.
  • 650-700 – This range is considered fair in the eyes of creditors. A tenant with a credit score between 650-700 may have accumulated some debt, but it’s unlikely that this is a sign they will not be able to pay their rent. Many renters with a credit score in this range are young, with either a single credit card or student loans. If you’re weary of a credit score in this range, consider asking for a guarantor to sign on with them.
  • 700 and Above – Any potential tenant with a credit score above 700 is most likely going to be a reliable renter you can easily approve. Don’t forget to look into other aspects of their application, but know that a high credit score is definitely a good sign when screening potential renters.
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#4: Ask About Any Roommates or Pets

When screening a potential new tenant, you want to make sure you’re getting the full picture of who will be living on the property.

If the tenant is applying to live alone, make sure to verify they’re not leaving any roommates off the lease. Depending on the restrictions you have in place for your specific rental property, it’s important to know every person that will be living there for legal and financial reasons.

The same idea goes for pets, too. Be upfront about rules when it comes to animals on the property, and don’t be afraid to enforce them prior to approving their application.

Be Meticulous in Your Process

Once you’ve handed over the lease to your new tenant, the time has passed for screening. That’s why it’s important to make sure you have all the necessary information prior to approving a new renter.

Don’t be surprised on move-in day—make sure to check all aspects of this list before you allow anyone to begin living on your property.

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