Looking for tenants? Here’s how to screen them
If you’re looking to rent out your property, it’s only natural that you want to find the best tenant you can. If you have dozens of applications from potential tenants, deciding which applicants to choose can be tricky.
That’s where screening comes in. When done right, you can use the tenant screening process to find the best people for your property. In this guide, we’ll show you how to screen potential tenants, going through the different factors to consider and how to ensure you avoid unreliable tenants.
It’s just not worth the risk
As a landlord, it’s essential to understand that renting out your property to tenants comes with its own set of risks. Failing to screen tenants properly can lead to a range of issues, from unpaid rent and property damage to illegal activities taking place on your property. Without proper screening, you could be inviting trouble.
If you’re trying to quickly sort through prospective tenants, skipping the screening process might seem like a good idea. But taking the time to screen tenants can considerably improve your chances of finding a great fit for your rental property. But the bottom line is, knowing how to screen for tenants helps you immediately and in the long run.
How to screen potential tenants: a step-by-step guide
Screening potential tenants is an essential process for you to ensure they find reliable, responsible tenants for your property. Here’s how to do it.
1. Pre-screen applicants
Start by pre-screening applicants over the phone or via email to get a sense of their rental history, income, and reason for moving. This will help you narrow down your list of potential tenants before meeting them in person. Pre-screening can help you identify potential issues early on, such as an applicant who cannot afford the rent or has a history of eviction.
2. Assess their character in-person
Set up a meeting to show the property and meet the potential tenants, either one-on-one or at an open inspection. During the meeting, ask questions about their rental history, income, and reason for moving. Also, make sure to explain your expectations and any rules or regulations you have for the property.
3. Get a rental application
Provide a rental application for the potential tenants to fill out. The application should ask for personal information, rental history, income, and references.
4. Check rental history and credit reports
Verify the information provided on the rental application by checking the applicant’s rental history and credit report. Look for any red flags, such as past evictions, late payments, or outstanding debts.
You can also run the potential tenant through the National Tenancy Database for a summary of their history and any information that is important to the screening process, including whether they’ve been blacklisted. This screening is not free, but can save headaches down the road.
5. Contact references
Contacting references is an important step in the tenant screening process. It allows you to verify the information provided by the applicant, such as their rental history, employment status, and character. To contact references effectively, start by obtaining a list of references from the applicant’s rental application. Contact each reference by phone or email and ask questions about their experience renting to the applicant. You may want to ask about their payment history, any damages caused to the property, their behaviour as a tenant, and whether they would recommend the applicant as a tenant. It’s also important to verify the reference’s identity and relationship to the applicant to ensure the information is accurate. Contacting references can give you a better understanding of the applicant’s rental history and help you make an informed decision about whether to rent to them.
6. Conduct a background check
Consider conducting a background check to look for any criminal history or past legal issues. For this, you will need the potential tenant’s written consent, and must follow all relevant laws and regulations. You can use a third-party screening service to perform the background check or do it yourself by searching public records for criminal history, bankruptcies, and evictions. Look for any patterns or issues that could be a cause for concern.
It’s important to review the information carefully and make an informed decision based on the results. Keep in mind that there are laws and regulations that govern what information can be considered when making a decision about a tenant, so it’s important to be familiar with these laws to avoid any potential legal issues. Conducting a background check can give you peace of mind and help you make an informed decision about whether to rent to an applicant.
7. Review all information
Reviewing all the information is the final step in the tenant screening process and an essential one. This step involves carefully examining all the information you have gathered from the applicant’s rental application, references, background check, and any other relevant information. Look for any inconsistencies or red flags that could be a cause for concern, such as a history of evictions or unpaid debts.
Consider whether the applicant meets your requirements and is a good fit for your property. It’s important to make an informed decision based on all the information you have gathered and avoid any potential biases or discrimination.
8. Remember the Equal Opportunity Act
When screening potential tenants, it’s important to remember the Equal Opportunity Act, which prohibits discrimination based on certain characteristics, such as race, gender, religion, and national origin. Landlords must treat all applicants equally and cannot deny an application based on discriminatory reasons. To ensure compliance with the law, make sure your screening process is fair and consistent for all applicants. Use objective criteria, such as credit history and rental references, to make decisions about whether to approve an application. Avoid asking questions that could be considered discriminatory, such as those about an applicant’s family status or disabilities. By following the Equal Opportunity Act, you can create a fair and inclusive screening process and avoid any potential legal issues.
- Poor credit history: A tenant with a history of missed payments, high debt, or bankruptcy may not be financially responsible enough to pay rent on time.
- Eviction history: If an applicant has been evicted in the past, it may indicate that they have had problems with landlords or have a history of not paying rent..
- Criminal history: A tenant with a history of criminal activity may pose a risk to the safety of other tenants or the property..
- Inconsistent or incomplete rental history: If an applicant has gaps in their rental history or provides incomplete information, it may indicate that they have had problems with previous landlords
- Unemployment or low income: A tenant who is unemployed or has a low income may struggle to pay rent on time or be more likely to default on their lease.
- Poor references: Negative or inconsistent references from previous landlords or employers may indicate that the applicant is unreliable or difficult to work with.
- Unwillingness to provide information: If an applicant is unwilling to provide the information required for screening or is hesitant to answer questions, it may indicate that they have something to hide
What you can do as a landlord
As the landlord, you play a central role in ensuring the screening process is easy to navigate and fair. Knowing how to screen potential tenants includes setting straight forward leasing requirements, so that your rental applicants know what information to provide and when to provide it. Outlining a clear leasing procedure makes screening much smoother, allowing you to focus on finding people who’ll appreciate your rental property.
Find the best tenants
If you know how to screen potential tenants, you should be able to find great people for your property. Having a property manager by your side is a major advantage. Property managers can guide you through all steps of the tenant screening process, from knowing what questions to ask at interviews to navigating the relevant laws for taking on new tenants.
If you’re looking for top-quality property management in Perth, Semple Property Group is your ideal partner. We’re a family-run business with over three decades of experience helping landlords find the right tenants. We love helping people get the most out of their property, and we’re always ready to help new customers with any questions they might have.
If you’re looking for expert property management services, get in touch with our team today!