How To Screen Potential Renters

Would you ever invite a complete stranger, someone’s whose murky past you know nothing about, to live in your home?

That is exactly what you’re doing when you’re renting out your home.

You may have interviewed your potential tenant and may have found out some basic details – what they do for a living, who they live with etc. – about them. In spite of it all, you never truly know them. Thus the final decision often depends on your gut feeling and whether you feel that they can be trusted not to destroy your home.

Even though there is no foolproof method of finding the best tenant, here are some things that you can do to help eliminate some of the chance that comes with choosing tenants based on gut feelings.

Ask them to complete a rental applicationrental application

By making every potential tenant fill out a standard form that comprises of questions that reveal different aspects of their lives, you can be sure that the most fundamental questions are all covered.

Some of the most important things that you need to know about your tenant include:

  • Employment history: How long have they had their current job for? Are they someone with a record of stable employment, or do they bounce from job to job every few months?
  • Income level: How much do they roughly earn? Will they be able to comfortably afford the house with their current income (bearing in mind that they must also pay for their normal living expenses on top of rent)?
  • Financial information: What is their credit history like? Are they in large amount of debt? Are they someone you can trust to pay the rent on time?
  • Past rental history: Who did they used to rent their apartment from? What was their reason for moving? Did they get along with their landlord? Are they a difficult tenant? Do they have any gaps in their rental history? Are you able to receive contact details of their previous landlords?
  • Living information: How many people will they be living with? Do they have any pets with them? How big are the pets? Will they disturb the neighbours?

2. Ask to check their credit history

These days it is quite simple to get a credit history check. With the convenience of the internet, the once time-consuming process can now be completed online. The convenience of it also means that your potential tenant does not have an excuse not to complete one.

Some things to look for on their credit history would be their history of late payments, any maxed out credit cards and major issues such as bankruptcy. Note that if somebody has been late on a few bill payments, they may not necessarily a bad tenant but it should be something to keep in mind.

Most people are cooperative and will be willing to show you their credit history especially if they have nothing to hide. On that note, if you do not receive a credit history for someone, it can be assumed that they have a poor history.

3. Get in touch with their previous landlord

Using the contact details they have provided, you should always try and reach out to their previous landlord to get an idea what sort of tenant they are. This also provides an opportunity for you to understand why they decided to move. Such investigation serves two purposes.

First of all, it helps paint a picture of the sort of tenant they are – whether they are hard to please or unreasonable. If they’re moving because they’re evicted, that should ring alarm bells. Whereas if they move because of job or trying to start a family, there shouldn’t be much cause for concern. Furthermore the landlord would also let you know if they would recommend them as a tenant.

Secondly, it can help you determine what it is that made them move. If they moved because they were not satisfied with the time it took the previous landlord to manage their complaints, you would know that you have to be more prompt in your response if you want to keep the tenant in future.

Some questions to ask the landlord would include:

  • Were they ever late in rent payments?
  • Have they caused any major damage to the rental unit?
  • Has there been any major issues when dealing with the tenant?

4. Interview the tenant

Although you have already asked them to complete an application form, you should conduct a face to face interview with the tenant. This does not necessarily need to be a formal meeting, as long as you are able to talk to the tenant one on one that is all that really matters.

Conducting the “interview” while showing the property may not be the best idea. This is because, at this stage, you are more pre-occupied with showcasing the house that you are not able to properly delve into the tenant’s life. Therefore, a quick phone call may be the best way to interview the tenant.

Some questions to ask the tenant would be:

  • Why are they moving? When are they planning to move in?
  • Do they have any pets? Are they planning to get any pets? Are they housetrained?
  • How many people do they plan to live with? Are they thinking of sharing the apartment with a roommate? If so, make sure you have a quick check of the roommate too.
  • Do they smoke? Do they do that indoors or outdoors?
  • Will they have a lot of friends or family who might stay overnight quite often?
  • Do you have any questions?

Most importantly, never should you discriminate a tenant because of age, sex, race or religious reasons. These should never be the reason why you decide to reject a tenant application.

So there you are, those are some parameters that you can utilise and implement when screening through potential renters. Hopefully this guide can help eliminate some of the guesswork that was once involved in the tenant screening process.


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