How to Screen Rental Applicants

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Choose your tenant carefully.
Choose your tenant carefully. (Image: small house, big house image by Nino Pavisic from <a href='http://www.fotolia.com'>Fotolia.com</a>)

Screening rental applicants is an important part of the leasing process. Choosing the wrong applicant can mean the difference between a trashed and a well-kept property at the end of the lease term. Take your time, and carefully screen all applicants. Apply the same screening policy to all applicants, and be sure you comply with housing discrimination laws. The result will be a satisfied tenant who may wish to renew her lease and a well-maintained property.

Make a list of questions to ask each prospective tenant during your first conversation. Ask the person’s reason for moving; the number of people moving into the property (if any) and their relationships to the prospective tenant; how long they would like the lease to last; if they have any pets; when they want to move in; if they are okay with your conducting a credit check; whether they smoke; and whether they have contact information for their present or previous landlord (See References 2).

Show the property to the prospective tenants who make it past your first interview. Look to see if the prospective tenant is well-kept, as this is often a sign of how a person keeps a home. Pay attention to possible future tenants’ manners. Look to see if they are inspecting the property and trying to find items to negotiate the price, and whether they have come ready to fill out the application and make a deposit (See References 2.)

Use a rental application for all prospective tenants, and run credit checks on all those you are considering as tenants. The application should include income, employment and credit history information, as well as driver’s license and Social Security numbers, references, and past bankruptcies and/or evictions (See References 1.)

Get a screening fee from applicants to cover the cost of the credit report (See References 2.) Encourage the prospective tenant to return the complete application as soon as possible so you can make a decision.

Approve your chosen tenant. Make an appointment to sign the lease. See if your applicant keeps the appointment and brings all necessary money, identification and forms. Have a good lease agreement that you go over with the applicant in complete detail. Iron out any issues in the lease, and clear up any potential misunderstandings or disagreements (See References 2.)

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