Prospective Tenants: 770.783.3737
Prospective Owners: 404.937.1850

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12 Tips on How to Screen Potential Tenants to Avoid Problems

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Marina Shlomov - Saturday, October 31, 2015

12 Tips on How to Screen Potential Tenants to Avoid Problems

Whether you are new to property management or a seasoned pro, there are a few things about tenant screening that you could probably tweak. For newbies, finding a solid and effective routine for screening potential tenants takes time, and, unfortunately, it can turn into a trial-and-error ritual that leads to more frustration than anything. For seasoned property managers, tenant screening can fail for a variety of reasons. 

No matter why you’re in the business or how long you’ve been in, tenant screening is a make or break step in the process. In this article, we’ll cover 12 tips on how to screen potential tenants to avoid problems. 

1. Online Research

Thanks to modern technology, you can log onto social media or just do a Google search to find leads on your potential tenant. Plenty of employers are doing it, and landlords are quickly hopping on the bandwagon. We a professional solution to get background information about an individual prospect. You can gain valuable insight about your tenants this way! 

2. Make Sure the Application is Complete

Double check to make sure your potential client has signed each and every document, including those for verification (employment, background check, credit check, etc.). You want to make sure that you protect yourself by adhering to the state laws in your state for properly requesting verification documents as well as asking questions that abide by Fair Housing Laws.

3. Call Every Reference

This is often skipped, but calling each reference can give you valuable insights on your potential tenant! Don't be shy, ask the questions. What type of person are they? How long have your reference known the applicant, ask for a characteristic. 

4. Conduct Criminal Background Checks, Credit Checks, Terrorist Checks, Sex Offender Checks, National Evictions, and others.

Cover all your bases by conducting as many checks as possible. We start out with criminal background checks, credit checks, terrorist checks, sex offender checks, national evictions, and bankruptcies of each potential tenant. The more information you have, the easier it will be to make an educated decision about a prospective tenant. 

5. Find Out Why They’re Moving

Look at the potential tenant’s housing history and ask them why they’re moving. Does this person move every year? If so, are you comfortable with a short-term tenant? Did they part ways with a previous landlord on good terms? 

6. Move Fast

Answer your potential tenant’s questions quickly and strive to provide a fast turnaround on applications, paperwork, and anything else. Ask that your potential tenant does the same. 

7. Get a Copy of their Drivers' License

Obtain positive identification to ensure that this person isn’t stealing someone’s identity or doing anything malicious. You can use this information to cross-check social media, too.

8. See Past Rent Checks

By asking for the past few cleared rent checks, you can learn a lot about your potential tenant. For instance, you can learn who they are writing their checks to, if they’re running late on payments, and how much they are currently paying for rent.

9. Ask for Pet Photos

If you have a weight or breed restriction, asking for pet photos can help cull out tenants who might break the rules, but it also lets you see which potential tenants are going to follow the rules.

10. Get Application Fees

Make sure to collect your listed application fees as soon as possible and process them quickly.

11. Send Verification of Terms

You can’t blame them - not all tenants are going to pick through the rental agreement with a fine-toothed comb. To help them out, and to cover yourself, send a letter or e-mail that summarizes all of your terms.

12. Verify Employment

Just as you call those references, you should definitely verify your potential tenant’s employment. This one phone call will not only confirm that your applicant is employed, but it will also give you an idea of what his or her employer thinks about him.

There are so many commonly overlooked facets of the tenant screening process, but each step is critical to ensuring that you go into business with a tenant that will make timely payments, upkeep the property and stay around for a while! If you have any questions, please feel free to call Marina directly at 404-937-1850.

Marina Shlomov, a managing partner at ALH|Podland Realty & Rental Homes Property Management is the author of many articles on Landlording, Property Management, and Real Estate Investing. A residential builder in the state of Georgia since 1999, Marina is an investor herself. Her property management company is intended “For Investors” and “By Investors” for a simple reason – she knows what investors’ goals are and she works hard to reach their goals. In her spare time, Marina likes to spend time with her family, friends, garden, read and travel. Check her out at You can find Marina’s articles and comments at @rentalhomesatl on Twitter, on FacebookGoogle+, Blogger. and YouTube, Bigger Pockets and REI CLub and LinkedIn.

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