By Jay Young

It’s every landlord’s desire to have a tenant who pays the rent promptly and who takes care of the rental property. But how can you tell that a person is a good tenant? The most significant step is to conduct a proper screening check before you sign the tenancy agreement.

There are a lot of signs that may indicate a problem tenant at first glance. When dealing with a prospective tenant, listen to your gut instinct or rely on your first impression. Here are some steps to screen your potential tenants and avoid the terrible ones ahead of time.

1. Ask A Few Questions
When potential tenants give you a call for the first time, make that moment an opportunity to screen them You’ll be surprised at how much trouble you can avoid by simply asking the right questions. Some good questions you can ask are:

● How many will be living there?
● How long are they planning to stay?
● What’s their employment status?
● Why did they leave their previous place?
● Do they have pets? If yes, how many?
● Do they smoke?

Free Property Listing Checklist

At this point, tell your potential renters about your security deposit and advance rent requirements. Inform them of your background, credit, and previous landlord checks and man will withdraw because they have something to hide. Share any important facts about the rental that may make the prospect ineligible.

Keep in mind that anyone who’s interested it will answer all these questions properly. If not, then you can scratch them out from your candidate list.

2. Observe Their Behavior
You can get a glimpse of the tenant’s behavior during the viewing. Does the tenant arrive on time? Are they seem polite when looking at the property? If you have current housemates in your property, will they fit properly?

If the tenants don’t show up on time then that’s a signal that they may not also be punctual when paying the rent. Impolite behavior may warn you that they may not follow the rules. You should also consider the current housemates because if you think that the potential tenants won’t fit in then chaos may occur anytime.

Besides the attitude and manners of the prospective tenant, be aware of their appearance. In most cases, serious applicants want to make a good impression so they dress neat and clean. If the prospect is untidy, then it’s a telltale sign that he or she won’t take care of the property.

When you’re done showing the rental, don’t commit just yet. You still need to check if the potential tenants have the right finances and credentials to pay you right, which takes me to the next step.

3. Make A Rental Application
Now, it’s time for the application process. The first thing you need to do is to create a written rental application. Ask everything that you need to help you choose the best candidate.

Here are some details that you can ask:

● Employment history including contact details of previous employers
● Current income level
● Financial details, like credit cards and bank accounts
● Lifestyle information, like the number of pets
● Character references with their contact details

Let the potential tenants fill out the application and inform them that their application will be considered along with other candidates. If you see some missing information, be cautious because that could be a sign that the tenant may want to hide something.

Don’t forget to state on the application that a background or credit check will be conducted if appropriate and that the potential tenant is giving authorization for a credit check.

4. Verify Their Identity
At this point, you may want to ask for verification of their identity. There might be some people who seem to look professional but are using a false identity. You don’t want to fall for false pretenses.

Ask for a copy of their valid photo identification card, then attach it to the rental application. If the person can’t give you an identification card, then you need to give him or her a pass. You may also include a section that asks for their license number. Look the license number up to further check their identity.

5. Conduct A Credit Check
Perhaps one of the most essential stages of the screening process is the credit check. Some state laws may let the landlord ask for a fee to do a credit check while other states don’t. Either way, you need to check your potential tenant’s credit to protect yourself as a landlord.

The credit check will show the credit history of the potential tenant including his or her credit rating. It will also present other essential information that may help you determine whether this person is financially capable to pay the rent or not. If you see some serious crimes, like bankruptcy, then that’s your sign of letting go of that person.

The current debt is another thing that you should look for in a credit report. If you see a lot of unpaid balances and hefty loans, then the risk of late rental payments may be quite high.

To perform the credit check, ask the potential renter’s Social Security Number and permission in writing. You may not do this check if you don’t have their permission. Explain this process to the candidate so you’ll avoid any impropriety allegations.

6. Do A Background Check
Sure, running a background check isn’t fun but it’s one way to make sure that the potential tenant won’t cause any problems in the future. A background check will offer you a comprehensive report of a person’s past. A few companies provide this type of investigative service for a charge and will give full details about a person’s criminal history and eviction history. Usually, you can request these reports using a person’s social security number.

When requesting a background check, look for this information:

● Eviction History: A recent eviction is a red flag that the person is a bad renter. To be fair, you can ask for further details about the eviction.

● Criminal History: You should give a pass to someone with a serious or lengthy criminal record. Accepting a serious criminal could put yourself and other tenants in harm.

● Public Records: Any legal disputes will be shown in this type of records. A person who has been sued in the past for unpaid rent or other financial matters could mean financial instability.

You can also get an amazing insight from the potential tenants’ social media accounts. Seeing their unrefined behavior on their Instagram and Facebook accounts could give an instant red flag.

7. Call The References
Remember the contact details of previous landlords and current employer provided by the potential renter in the rental application? It’s time to call them. To get a fair idea on how the potential tenants are in paying rent, call their previous landlords.

You can ask the tenant’s past landlords these following questions:

● Does the tenant owe something to you?
● Does the tenant ever fail to pay the rent on time? If yes, how often?
● Has the tenant brought any major damage to the rental property?
● Did the tenant cause any problems in the neighborhood?

To verify the potential tenant’s steady income, call his or her employer. Keep in mind that some employers won’t tell you the salary details of their employee. In that case, ask for the potential tenant’s recent payslip.

8. Make The Decision
Once you’ve made up your mind on who to accept as a tenant, contact and arrange for the signing of the tenancy agreement. Instruct the tenant to bring the right amount of money and how you want to be paid (cash or check).

It’s essential that you create a quality lease. There are a lot of people who would just sign a lease without reading through the details. Before signing, read the whole lease with the tenants. Clarify each term so both of you agree.

Now, this is where the final screening occurs. If the tenant keeps on disputing on each item and not cordial about late payment penalties, give him or her a pass. If not, then sign the lease together and hope for a good tenant-landlord relationship.

Need Assistance? Contact Real Property Associates Inc Today!
If you don’t have the time for screening each potential applicant and managing your property, let Real Property Associates (RPA) do the tasks for you. RPA is a property management company in Seattle which helps manage commercial or residential properties, like condos, apartment buildings, and smaller office buildings.

With RPA, you’ll feel secure that a professional property manager will take care of your rental property and tenants. For more information, call (206) 523-0300.


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