Darin and Christina Cunningham | Re/Max Elite
278 Franklin Road Suite 190 | Brentwood, TN 37027
Office: 615.661.4400 | Fax: 615.661.4115
Christina: 615.394.4168 | Darin: 615.456.4086

How To Screen Tenants If You Are Renting Out A Property

If own a rental property and you prefer not to hire a property manager or management company, then you may have to screen tenants yourself. This is a job best understood and done by property managers and management companies, however, if you have the time and desire, you can save money by handling the job yourself.

Having a good tenant gives you peace of mind. You sleep better knowing your rent will be paid on time and the property is more or less safe from reckless irresponsible damage.

With a bad tenant, peace of mind can be hard to come by. It’s easy to be worried about the condition of your property and whether you are going to get paid the rent at the end of the month. It can also be a headache getting calls from angry neighbors. Having to evict a bad tenant can also be a challenging experience.

What are you screening for?

The first step is to determine what your “must haves” and “can’t stands” are. As a landlord, you have rules and regulations you expect to be followed by the renters in the house. Make sure to be very upfront about these when screening for your tenants. The areas most commonly screened for areas regarding prospective tenants are work history, income, criminal background, previous residence, and credit check.

Some think it’s not necessary to screen for all these but a wise landlord screens for all of them.

Pre-screening your candidates

A lot of time can be saved by learning how to screen applicants out before they fill out a rent application. For example, if you don’t allow pets on your property, make that known upfront and candidates with pets will hopefully not apply. Mention upfront that you run a credit check, income, and previous landlord screening as well as a criminal background check. If the candidate knows they don’t measure up in to any of these areas, they may bow out thinking you will pass on them.

Credit check

This may help you to know if your prospective tenants pay their bills on time or if you may have to serve them a court order to get them to pay the rent. It also allows you to assess an applicant’s debt and how big their monthly payments are compared to their income.

Credit reports come in the form of FICO or similar scores and come from credit reporting agencies.

A landlord must get written permission from the prospective tenant before running a credit check on them.

Criminal background checks

If you don’t want a tenant that may engage in illegal behavior, running a criminal background check is vital.  Running background checks on people now days is much easier with the help of the internet.

You will need two things before running the background check:

  • The applicant’s approval of a criminal background check
  • The applicant’s name, date of birth, address, and SSN

Income and employment verification

Be sure to ask for the prospective tenant’s employment information and it’s best to verify this with their current employer. If your tenant does not have a job or has a spotty job history, then they may have a very hard time paying the rent on time or at all.

 Previous landlord, address and eviction history

You can get a normal looking prospective tenant who has a bad history with landlords. If that is the case, you probably won’t be an exception. Check with at least two of their latest landlords. The previous one might tell you anything just to get rid of the tenant, but previous ones have no stake in the situation and are more likely to tell you the truth. Check with local courts also to know if the tenant has any evictions and judgment for damages.

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