How to Pre-screen Prospective Tenants

A seasoned landlord understands the importance of pre screening tenants. It takes time and a lot of effort to perform due diligence and find the right tenants.
Madhu Vijayakumar
March 1, 2022
4 min read
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A seasoned landlord understands the importance of screening tenants. It takes time and a lot of effort to perform due diligence and find the right tenants. But no one wants to waste time and money on candidates who are either not serious applicants or do not meet the minimum qualifications you look for in tenants.

So what is the recourse? Pre-qualifying applicants helps you identify those who meet your criteria and eliminate those who do not. While you may sometimes be able to assess candidates at first contact, it is easier to follow a set of steps to help you be sure you are qualifying the right candidate and not letting a great tenant go due to prejudices.

Set expectations in your rental listing

Your rental listing is the first place where you can start narrowing down your candidate pool by providing a clear idea of what kind of residence your rental property is, and who will find it a great fit.

Start by creating a detailed listing with an attractive title highlighting the best features of your rental unit and providing a number of professionally shot photographs. Provide a description that lets candidates know the amenities of the neighborhood and features of the property. This helps you attract the right applicant. For example, advertising a property on a quiet cul-de-sac may invite families with children, a condo in a high rise with gym access may be suitable for a working adult who likes to stay fit and if you want student tenants, mention how close it is to the university in your town.

Assess candidates during the showing

The day of showing can be a great opportunity to see if a candidate is serious or not as it gives landlords a chance to ask questions and get direct and immediate answers from the tenant. There are a lot of criteria that a landlord can assess during the showing. The first one is to note if the candidate showed up on time and presented themselves well. Then come the questions which is not limited to the following:

  • Why are they moving?
  • When will they need the place?
  • How close or far away is their place of work?
  • How do they feel about the smoking restrictions?
  • What kind of pets do they have?

Their willingness to answer these questions and how genuine they sound are great indicators of the kind of tenants they will be. You will be able to gauge if the renter is right for the property or if there are too many/ too few people for the size of the unit, if they want to move in immediately or do you have time until the current tenants move out, or if they may move out soon because their workplace is too far away and a lot more. Feel free to ask as many questions as you need to as long as they are not intrusive or against anti-discriminatory laws.

Explain the application process

One of the main steps of pre-qualifying is to let the candidate know how you will be making your decision about giving them the keys to your property. Some important steps are:

Rental application: Require them to fill out a detailed application form to make a formal request for tenancy. A rental application form will have written answers to important queries that the tenant cannot refute later. Getting them to fill an online rental application makes sure there is no identity theft or the possibility of misplacing the form, while also making it easy for you to make further enquiries on their profile.

Credit Check: Let the interested candidates know that you will be running a credit check based on the information they provide in their rental application. Most rental credit checks are soft checks and also come with a thorough background check, rental history and criminal record check for a reasonable price. This gives you a thorough picture of who you are renting to. Find an affordable and detailed credit report.

Reference checks: Though a credit check can provide you an insight into their financial situation, calling up their previous landlords can give you an actual picture of what sort of tenant you will be dealing with. You may want to know how easy they were to work with, if they were cooperative to changes, or if they had trouble paying rent.

If the candidate refuses for any of the above requirements or does not reach back to you after hearing the requirements, you may simply stop moving forward with them.

Pre-screening tenants is a simple but effective way to skip wasting time and money on bad tenant leads. Once you have asked your questions and they have asked theirs, you will have a better understanding of the candidate and can go ahead to the actual screening process.

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Madhu Vijayakumar
March 1, 2022
4 min read
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