Tenant Screening: Running Renter Background Checks for an Income Property


Part of the job of being a landlord is to rent out the apartment or house to earn income from the rental property. Preparing the unit for rent may be the easiest part. Finding the right renters or tenants without taking help from background check sites is one of the most important parts of a landlord’s job.

Tenant screening allows a landlord to narrow down all of the potential interested renters and then choose the one or two to consider seriously to rent to. Running background checks is an important step to finding the right tenant. Potential tenants with good records in all areas, such as employment, rental history, and lawfulness, are better risks than potential renters who have a less than stellar history of paying rent on time, for example.

Where to Look for Potential Tenants

Getting referrals from family and friends is a great way for a landlord to begin looking for a tenant for the rental property. Potential tenants may be just as choosy when looking for a new place to live, so hearing about an apartment or house from a friend or co-worker can be a desirable scenario. Landlords can give fliers to everyone they know to post at work or to pass along to their friends.

Placing an advertisement in a newspaper or on an online community site are other options to finding potential tenants.

Being Fair When Judging Potential Renters

Each state has its own laws on renting out rental property. One common law is to be fair and treat each potential tenant the same. That is, landlords should ask for the same information from each potential tenant when screening them. Using the same rental application form for all potential tenants is imperative as is using the same criteria. For example, a landlord can ask if the potential renter has ever been late on a rent payment. When asking this question to all applicants and then following up with each former landlord, the landlord is being fair to all potential renters.

Screening Tenants with Renter Background Checks

It is possible for landlords to screen tenants themselves or there are tenant-screening services that are available for a fee. If a landlord chooses to do tenant screening themselves, a thorough check of references for employment, rental history, and personal references is important. Specifically, this should cover income and employment verification, prior rental history, any evictions, and a credit report.

It is also possible to check city and county records for a history of any criminal records. A rental application should be used that states that the applicant gives the landlord permission to check all of these areas.

Choosing the Right Tenant

A landlord should use common sense along with the answers discovered from the potential tenants screening process to choose the right tenant. Tenant screening can also include looking in each applicant’s car to see how clean and neat or how dirty and messy they keep their vehicle. This is often a good indication of how tenants maintain their homes.

Taking the time to call each and every reference is a wise move to get a clear, comprehensive look at each potential renter. Protecting the rental property from damage and neglect, as well as saving the landlord headaches down the road make screening tenants one of the most important jobs landlords will do.

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