October 13, 2023

How to Screen Out Good Tenants

1. Prepare Your Property:
First impressions matter. Start by ensuring your property is in top condition — clean, safe, and with all amenities functioning. A desirable property attracts a higher caliber of applicants. Also, do your homework regarding the local rental market to set a competitive yet fair price, and understand what features prospective tenants value most in your area.

2. Advertise Effectively:
Visibility is key to attracting a variety of potential tenants. Utilize multiple platforms — from online real estate listings and social media to community bulletin boards and local newspapers. Create compelling, detailed advertisements with high-quality images, and clearly list your requirements and preferences (such as no pets or non-smokers), helping to pre-filter applicants right from the start.

3. Create a Standardized Application Process:
Consistency and fairness are crucial. Design a comprehensive rental application form that asks for relevant information, such as employment history, income, and references, ensuring you’re gathering the same data from all applicants. Make sure your application process adheres to local and national fair housing laws, avoiding any kind of discrimination.

4. Thoroughly Screen Tenants:
Reliable tenants are the foundation of a successful rental business. This means conducting thorough background checks — which should include credit history, employment verification, and past rental references. Remember to obtain written consent from the applicant before doing any background checks to ensure compliance with privacy laws and regulations.

5. Meet Potential Tenants:
Personal interaction is invaluable. Arrange for property viewings or open houses to meet applicants face-to-face, providing you with insights into their character, responsibility, and suitability as potential tenants. Use these opportunities to assess soft qualities not apparent on paper, such as communication skills, courtesy, and punctuality.

6. Set Clear Criteria:
Establish and maintain transparent criteria for your tenant selection process, such as minimum income levels, acceptable credit scores, and zero-tolerance for eviction histories. These criteria must be consistent for all applicants and comply with fair housing regulations, ensuring you’re making decisions based on facts, not biases.

7. Understand and Follow Laws:
Knowledge of and compliance with housing laws are non-negotiable. Familiarize yourself with federal, state, and local landlord-tenant laws and fair housing regulations to avoid discriminatory practices. Ensure you’re respecting tenant privacy and appropriately handling their personal information.

8. Communicate Effectively:
Clear communication establishes trust and clarity. Be prompt, professional, and transparent in all your interactions with potential tenants. Ensure they understand the terms of the lease, their obligations, and your expectations, preventing misunderstandings and conflicts down the line.

9. Use a Comprehensive Lease Agreement:
Your lease agreement is your legal safeguard. Make sure it’s comprehensive, outlining terms, policies, and tenant responsibilities in detail. It’s wise to have this document reviewed by a legal professional to ensure its thoroughness and compliance with current laws.

10. Trust Your Instincts:
While rigorous screening is essential, don’t underestimate the value of your intuition. If all checks are satisfactory but something feels off, consider it seriously. Sometimes, subtle cues can signal potential issues not reflected in formal documents.

11. Document Everything:
In the rental business, thorough records are your ally. Document all stages of the application process, communications, agreements, and transactions. Should you ever need to resolve a dispute or address legal issues, this documentation will be invaluable.

12. Build Relationships:
Lastly, foster positive relationships with your tenants. Being a responsive and considerate landlord encourages tenants to respect your property and the terms of the lease. Open, friendly communication channels can often prevent issues or help resolve them amicably when they do arise.