How To Screen Tenants As A Landlord

What’s the difference between a bad landlord and a good one?

Applicant screening.

As a landlord, you should have a standard set of criteria and processes to effectively screen potential tenants. This helps to ensure that you’re not passing over good people or inadvertently violating Fair Housing laws. It also helps you save on time and energy (and money!) through the entire rental process.

The following steps will be an important part of your screening process.

Recommended Practices

  • All adults (18 years or older) who will be living in the property must complete an application.

  • Be sure that the potential residents can afford the rental unit. Most landlords look for 2.5 to 3 times the monthly rent in income. In special situations (such as an applicant who is retired), make sure they have sufficient liquid savings in their bank account.

  • Run a credit report. Not all people with bad credit make bad renters—some situations such as medical debt are hard to avoid. In general, the credit report shows whether a person is delinquent on repayment and, if so, why they have a negative score. Use the credit report to see if they have a good track record of meeting their financial obligations.

  • Find out if the applicant has ever been evicted. If they have a bad renting track record, this is important to know before you approve their application.

  • Call the applicant’s current and previous landlords to verify that they actually live at the address listed and whether the property manager would re-rent to them.

How to Screen

As a property management company, we invest heavily in our systems so that we can easily advertise, screen, and process applications. We use a powerful software system called Appfolio. However, if you are a DIY landlord, you can still professionally screen applicants by using software such as, Transunion, or National Tenant Network. The cost is reasonable and can be charged back to the applicant.

Professional screening is extremely important in helping you decide who will be residing in your rental property.