Tips for Tenant Screening

By Kaitlin Hurtado on June 28, 2021

As a property manager or landlord, one of the best ways to properly set yourself and your rental property up for success and longevity is making sure that your tenant screening is efficient and effective. Tenant screening can take up plenty of your team’s time and resources but will be well worth it when you can help yourself avoid major issues with problematic tenants that may result from an ineffective tenant screening process. A streamlined tenant screening process can protect your team and your property from future issues, so why not put the effort into making sure your process is one you can stand behind? Keep reading for tips on building and maintaining an effective tenant screening process.

tips for tenant screening

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Establish a tenant screening process 

In order to maximize efficiency when it comes to screening every applicant, you need to establish a screening process you can apply to every applicant. Don’t change up your process because you are eager to reduce your vacancy as soon as possible, or waive certain aspects of the screening process because that applicant sounds like they would be a good tenant. When you and your team are following a standardized tenant screening process, you are reducing the risk of any possible bias toward an applicant.

If you are going to be asking an applicant’s references/previous landlords, have a standardized list of questions to ask so you are getting the same information every time:

- Did the tenant pay on time?

- Did the tenant leave behind any property damage or get complaints from any neighbors?

- Would the landlord rent to the tenant again if given the chance?

For example, your standardized tenant screening process may come in the form of an online application that will be the same for every applicant. The point of the application is to collect the same information from every applicant — an applicant’s name, contact information, rental references, social security number, employment, and so on.

If you are relying on an online application as the first major step of your tenant screening process, make sure your approval and denial criteria is easily accessible to every applicant to remain transparent.

Utilize technology to make tenant screening easier 

As mentioned previously, you can take your tenant screening process online to make it easier for both your team and your applicants. Depending on how large your property is or how large your applicant pool is, making sure your team is doing their due diligence is properly screening every applicant can be time-consuming and exhausting. However, you do not have to solely rely on the manpower of your property management team to handle all the tenant screening when you can turn to online tenant screening services.

Online tenant screening services can dramatically cut down the amount of time your team has to spend on tenant screening, allowing you to spend more time handling other aspects of property management. Online tenant screening services can offer multiple services including:

- Online rent applications that applicants can directly fill out rather than having your team collect the information themselves.

- Credit score and credit report to allow you to look at an applicant’s financial behavior and residential history. Do they pay on time? Can you expect them to pay rent in full and on time every month?

- Criminal background checks to allow you to assess a candidate’s history to eliminate future issues on your rental property.

- Eviction history

RentSpree, for example, is an online tenant application and screen platform that has all of the above features as well as allowing you to accept or deny applicants and e-sign documents. If you want to request additional documents from an applicant during the tenant screening process, you can also use RentSpree to request and view documents such as proof of income from applicants.

Follow applicable laws and regulations 

Regardless of whatever standardized tenant screening process you end up using for your rental property, make sure you are following all of the laws and regulations regarding tenant screening. Per the U.S. Department of Housing and Development, “It is illegal to discriminate in the sale or rental of housing, including against individuals seeking a mortgage or housing assistance, or in other housing-related activities. The Fair Housing Act prohibits this discrimination because of race, color, national origin, religion, sex, familial status, and disability.” It is essential that you are complying with any and all applicable laws before establishing your tenant screening process and policies to accept and deny your applicants.

While establishing a standardized tenant screening process may seem like an extensive, time-consuming process upfront, you will be reaping the benefits of the move long after as you and your team can shift your time and energy to other duties of property management. With these tips in mind, you can help ensure you are screening for the right type of tenants without exhausting all your resources along the way.

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