A property owner screening a tenant application.

Once you acquire properties, clean them up and advertise their availability, your next step is to choose a tenant to occupy the rental. Whether you decide to hire a property manager to do this for you or you choose to do it yourself, you need to have a screening process in place. The reason for the screening process is to determine if a potential renter will be a good, long term tenant for you and your property. You want your rentals to become profitable and in order to do so, you need to take measures to ensure that you confidently enter into agreements with people who will honor the terms, pay rent on time, and properly care for your investment.

Initial contact

Depending on how you listed your preferred method of contact on your advertisement, your first contact with possible occupants will either be via phone or email. This is when you will begin the pre-screening process to determine if they qualify, as well as answer any questions they may have. You will be able to decide if you are interested in proceeding to the next step by finding out if they fit into the space and income requirements. Answering callers questions will also help them decide if they are interested in pursuing the rental as well. This will save you the time of meeting with someone who doesn’t meet your criteria for the rental.

If you are speaking with someone over the phone, be mindful of how you word your questions. Ask them in a way that doesn’t give the caller the answers you are seeking. For example, instead of telling the caller how many people the unit will sleep, ask how many people will be occupying the rental. If you are communicating via email, make a list of questions to send the interested individual. You could also place the list of questions in the advertising and advice anyone replying should include the answers to each question in their response.

Regardless of the method of contact you must always keep in mind housing laws, both federal and state, when asking questions. There are certain questions that you can ask and others that you legally cannot. Do your research to ensure that you do not violate any laws. You don’t want to put yourself in a situation that could be considered discrimination if you end up denying a party tenancy.

Showing

After the initial contact and pre-screening, you should have narrowed the pool of applicants to those who appear to qualify for the rental in question. At this point, you can set up either individual showings or if you have a good number of people interested and qualified, you could set up a rental open house. Either way you choose, you should take a few minutes to talk with each candidate individually. Also be mindful of cues from the potential renters such as whether or not they show up on time for the showing and their interest level. This will give you an overall feel for the prospective tenants.

Rentprep.com also gives a few tips on how you should present yourself throughout the showing process. You aren’t only showing your property. You are also showing or selling yourself. These tips will help you appear more professional and show what can be expected from you as a landlord.

Application

You should always have copies of your rental application on hand during the showing. You can find application templates online or type one up yourself. If you have parties interested in signing the lease, have them fill out an application while they are there. If you have multiple properties and a candidate doesn’t qualify for the particular rental you are showing, you can still have them go ahead and fill out an application to keep on file. In the event of another vacancy coming available in a different property, you can check back with those applicants to see if they are still in search of housing.

The application will give you all the information that you will need to determine if an applicant is going to be a good match for the lease agreement. There is a large amount of information that you will need to obtain from each person applying. Remember, other than your intuition based on the limited contact you have had with each candidate, the application is the only thing you will have to make your decision. Gather as much information as you can and be sure to verify as much as you are able. I will go into more detail on the application in a later post.

Decisions

When you have gathered all of your information and compared each qualified candidate, it is your choice on deciding who you want to sign the lease. As mentioned before there are laws in place to prevent discrimination based on multiple factors. Make sure that you are current on all state and federal laws in order to keep yourself out of legal trouble when accepting or denying applications. With all of the information you have available, as well as your personal judgment, make your decision based on the applicant you believe will be the best fit for you, your lease and your property. Once they sign the lease, you will be locked in to an agreement with this party for at least the length of you minimum lease.

2 COMMENTS

  1. They are very particular too! People have to make sure to research or they could get theirselves in trouble!

    And yes screening tenants does help with turnover! The next post will be about the application. It’s an important part of the screening process!

  2. These are all great points. Many people are not aware of the questions you can and cannot ask, so that they are not violation any anti-discriminatory laws. Screening tenants properly can save you a lot of extra hassle and prevent tenant turnover in the long run.