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How To Screen Tenants: A Complete Guide

Brandon Turner
23 min read
How To Screen Tenants: A Complete Guide

Tenant screening is one of the smartest steps to make your property management experience as headache-free as possible — and protect your investments.

  • Certain qualities you should seek usually indicate top-notch renters, as well as indicators that an applicant might cause trouble down the road.
  • When choosing the best tenants, all property owners should be aware of protected classes that are illegal to discriminate against.
  • For a well-run real estate business, all landlords should create solid processes for pre-screening, screening, approving, and rejecting rental applicants.

Have you heard the story about the tenant who deliberately threw maggots down the stairs to the tenant below? Or how about the tenant who moved in 15 children into an 800 square foot house? These stories are not made up for entertainment, they are true stories taken from actual BiggerPockets members and are just a tiny sample of what a real estate investor often must go through as a landlord.

However, by learning how to screen tenants effectively, you can reduce the chance of this happening and relieve the stress, headache, and backaches that often accompany the landlord’s job. This guide will help you learn to discern a good tenant from a bad one, a responsible tenant from an irresponsible one, and a non-paying tenant from a paying one.

This authoritative, step-by-step guide teaches how to rent your property to great tenants with minimal headaches, stress, or costs.

What is Tenant Screening?

When we talk about screening tenants, what exactly are we talking about?

Screening tenants involves digging into a potential tenant’s background and discovering who they are. An application (which we’ll discuss in this guide) can only tell you so much and can be easily manipulated or falsified. Screening your tenant means looking into the information they provided, as well as analyzing outside information you can discover, and coming to a reasonable estimate on the kind of tenant they will be, both financially and as a person.

Why is tenant screening Important?

Learning how to screen for tenants is important because it can save you a lot of headaches down the road as a landlord. While no tenant screening method is a 100% guarantee against problem tenants, it will help you weed through applicants and select the best ones in most cases. 

Screening tenants can help prevent lengthy legal disputes and even property damage. In some situations, especially if you deal with multiple-occupancy home leases (e.g., apartment blocks or house shares), it can also help you make sure that everyone you rent to gets along and is happy. This, in turn, leads to a lower tenant turnover, which means less work finding new tenants for you.

Seven Qualities of a Great Tenant

As mentioned above, there are no guarantees when it comes to the future quality of a tenant. However, there are several key metrics that will help you decide what kind of tenant they will be. To make your life as stress-free as possible, it is imperative that you only rent to the best tenant possible. The following is a list of the seven traits that make up a perfect tenant.

1. Great tenants can afford the rent

This may sound obvious, but learning how to screen tenants is, first and foremost, about determining that they can afford the rent. . Without proper payment, you’ll be forced to evict and be faced with potentially thousands of dollars worth of legal fees, lost rent, and damages. Most landlords require that a tenant earn at least three times the monthly rent from their (documentable) job. Many tenants believe that they can afford more than they really can – so it is the job of the landlord to set the rules. Three times the monthly rent usually is sufficient.

If your renter has a more unusual work arrangement, say, they are self-employed, it is better to look at their annual income over the past two/three years. A good applicant will be able to show steady earnings without too many fluctuations.

2. Good tenants pay rent on time

While some landlords look at late rent as simply a benefit (and the late fee as a financial bonus to them), a late-paying tenant is more likely to stop paying altogether. The stress involved when the rent doesn’t come in is not a pleasant experience and can be avoided by only renting to tenants who have a solid history of paying on time.

3. The long-term outlook on their job stability

While a tenant may be able to pay the rent and pay it on time right now, their ability to do so in the future is often determined by their job situation. If they are the type to switch jobs often or have long periods of unemployment, you may find long periods of missed rent.

If your prospective tenant has changed jobs several times over the past few years, it’s a good idea to probe them on the reasons why. If the job changes correlate with a career or career progression change and the applicant has benefited financially from the change, they’re still likely to be a good candidate.

4. Their housekeeping skill

No tenant stays forever – and when they leave, you want the property back in good condition. As such, it is important that the tenant’s day-to-day living be clean and orderly. They must take good care of the property you have entrusted them with. It’s always a good idea to request references from the tenant’s past landlords, the references should give you an idea of a tenant’s general ability to return a property in good condition.

5. Great tenants have solid credit scores

A credit score is a reliable way to delve into a prospective tenant’s financial health. It can be more accurate and useful than simply requesting bank statements or payslips. A credit score considers the applicant’s past borrowing history, how much money they owe in different loans, and their ability to repay them consistently.

Needless to say, the higher the credit score, the more reliable your tenant will be. A credit score of over 600 indicates someone who isn’t in too much debt, makes repayments on time, and doesn’t make unwise financial decisions that could impact their ability to pay rent.

6. Their aversion to illegal activities

There’s no need to expound too deeply on this. Tenants who engage in illegal activities will cause nothing but stress and expense.

7. The “stress quotient” — how much stress will they cause you?

The final quality of a great tenant is something I call their “stress quotient,” or the amount of stress a tenant will cause you, the landlord. Some tenants are very high maintenance and constantly demand time and attention. Unless you are having a hard time finding quality tenants – these types will only cause more problems.

This ultimate guide is designed to help you find and sift through the information about the tenant to find one who most closely fits the above seven qualities of a perfect tenant. Obviously, no tenant is going to be 100% perfect, so deciding how close to perfection you will require is a personal choice that largely depends on your desired involvement level and the community in which your property is located. If tenants are difficult to find – it may be financially advantageous for you to rent to a less-than-perfect tenant in order to fill vacancies. However, if you have plenty of tenants to choose from, you can be significantly pickier.

Setting Your Minimum Requirements

One of the most important steps in screening your tenants and finding the best qualified is by coming up with your list of minimum requirements for the property. This list of standards should be told to the tenant on the telephone, placed on the application, placed on your Craigslist ad, and told in person to eliminate those who simply will not qualify. Having a clear list of requirements saves you and your applicants time. The following four standards are commonly used by landlords on BiggerPockets:

Income must be three times the monthly rent

By giving an exact minimum income requirement, you can filter out those who might believe they can afford to pay the rent but really can’t. Requiring income to be three times the monthly rent has been used by landlords for many years – as well as banks and other financial institutions that supply loans. Note that the salary that’s considered using this method is gross, not net.

There are situations when a good prospective tenant may not meet the 3x rule but still be worth considering. This especially applies to people who run their own businesses and have irregular incomes. In these instances, they may be able to compensate for a lower monthly income with savings or other assets. They may also be able to offer a guarantor, a person who vouches to step in for them if they are unable to pay rent for whatever reason.

Tenant must have good references

The references you receive from past landlords are the best indication of the way the tenant will behave for you. A bad review from a past landlord is a huge red flag for most landlords. When requesting references from past landlords, you will get more out of them if you ask specific questions; for example, ask them to be honest about the tenant’s cleanliness, whether they got into any trouble with neighbors, and whether they were courteous and reasonable when resolving any issues with the property.

No evictions

A tenant who recently faced an eviction is unlikely to ever rent from me. I realize that many people change, but I’m not willing to take that risk.

Clean background

I want tenants, not problems. If a tenant has a background filled with criminal activity, I am very hesitant to rent to them. Again, people do change, but it is not a risk I’m willing to take.

Pre-Screening Process

You’ve begun advertising for your property and have begun receiving calls. Contrary to popular opinion, screening doesn’t begin with a background check or an application – it begins with the initial contact. This is known as “pre-screening.”

As you can probably tell by the length of this guide – screening is not a flippant activity that you can do in a few seconds. Screening can take a considerable amount of time – and you don’t want to waste that time on every person who shows interest in your property. This is why pre-screening is so important. Think of the screening process as a funnel – like the kind you would use to pour oil into your vehicle. At each step of the process, you are able to narrow down the pool of applicants until only a small few – or just one – match. Pre-screening is the widest part of that funnel and will help to keep away those who obviously won’t qualify.

Request an application

Having prospective tenants fill in an online tenancy request application form is a very effective early stage in the tenant screening process. First, people who are genuinely interested in the property and serious about renting will have no problem answering a few questions online and providing accurate information about themselves. You will automatically weed out those who aren’t all that interested, as they won’t bother with this step.

Pre-screening through your advertising

Your pre-screening efforts begin with your advertisement. Whether you are using the newspaper, Craigslist, Zillow, or another service to market your property, the information in your advertisement can further help to weed out time wasters. For example, by placing the location in your ad, you can screen out individuals who are looking for another location (don’t worry – if you don’t feel comfortable putting in your exact address, just put a general location or a nearby landmark.)

Also – putting the price in the advertisement helps to keep those who can’t afford that price range from calling. I often see ads with no monthly rent listed – and have to wonder how many wasted calls they are receiving or how many potentially great tenants they are missing out on.

Pre-screening through your first phone call

The initial phone call is the next logical step in screening tenants. The first thing you hear is often an indication (though not proof) of the kind of tenant they might be. If the first words you hear after saying hello is a voice yelling into the phone

“How much do I have to have to move in?”

you can assume the tenant might not be a great fit. After all – they are more concerned with getting in anywhere than even asking to look at the property.

When a tenant calls about a property I have for rent, I like to ask them, “What can I tell you about the property?”

This open-ended question allows the tenant to begin talking and asking questions. The typical questions are generally,

  • “How much is it?” (Even though I always include it in the advertising)
  • “What’s the address?”
  • ‘’Are any bills included?’’
  • “Do you accept pets?”
  • ‘’Is there any flexibility on the moving date?’’
  • “How much is the security deposit?”
  • “Will you work with me on my security deposit” (No.)
  • “Can I book a viewing?”

The kind of questions asked by the tenant is a great indication of the kind of tenant they are going to be. I’m not suggesting that you judge a tenant solely on their ability to ask good questions – but it does help point me in the right direction as to the type of person they are. Are they orderly? Do they care about where they are going to live? Do they sound broken?

In the conversation, I also always include a few of my minimum requirements, as we discussed earlier. Usually, this is easily worked into the conversation, such as, “Now, the property has a minimum income requirement of $____ per month, and we do a full background and criminal check to ensure we only rent to upstanding people.”

Many times I simply get a *click* after stating this information. If not, they usually will volunteer how much money they actually make and reassure me that they have never done anything bad in their entire life.

This simple two-minute phone call does two great things:

  1. Get’s rid of 80% of the “bad apples” and prevents them from wasting my time.
  2. Lets the good tenants know I am not a slumlord and only rent to good people.

In both cases – a win for me. This is what makes pre-screening so important. It allows you to save time, avoid nuisances, and project a good image. I’d also recommend leaving your minimum requirements on your voicemail as well – so when you can’t get to the phone, your tenants still get the message, and your pre-screening still works.

Screening a Tenant in Person

The next step of the tenant screening process is to meet with tenants and show them the property. This is also a great opportunity to screen the tenant before any paperwork is done. I always re-state my minimum requirements to the tenant in person; it’s good practice that minimizes misunderstandings further down the line. 

At this point, many tenants will admit that they don’t quite meet the requirements but ask if I’ll work with them anyway. If I need time to think about it – I always tell them that I will have to check with the owner (or partner or any other higher authority) and let them know. If I know they immediately won’t qualify, I let them know why but still offer the opportunity to apply. Why? I don’t ever want to be accused of being discriminatory against any of the protected classes. Let’s talk about those now.

Protected Classes

It’s okay to screen people for some criteria but not others.

Generally, you can deny applications of those with poor rent payment histories or someone with a violent criminal background. However, discrimination against someone in a protected class is not only morally wrong, it’s also illegal. This section will let you know what those protected classes are.

Federal fair housing laws

The following was taken directed from the US Department of Housing and Urban Development’s Fair Housing Website, which states (emphasis mine):

In the Sale and Rental of Housing: No one may take any of the following actions based on race, color, national origin, religion, sex, familial status, or handicap:

  • Refuse to rent or sell housing
  • Refuse to negotiate for housing
  • Make housing unavailable
  • Deny a dwelling
  • Set different terms, conditions, or privileges for the sale or rental of a dwelling
  • Provide different housing services or facilities
  • Falsely deny that housing is available for inspection, sale, or rental
  • For-profit, persuade owners to sell or rent (blockbusting) or
  • Deny anyone access to or membership in a facility or service (such as a multiple listing service) related to the sale or rental of housing.

In case you missed it, here are those classes again:

  • Race
  • Color
  • National origin
  • Religion
  • Sex
  • Familial status
  • Handicap

While it is vitally important that you don’t discriminate against those classes, it is also important that you don’t even ask questions about those topics. This means don’t ask what their race is, how many children they have (you can ask how many people will be living there,) or if they have a husband or wife. Save yourself the legal trouble and simply do not ask. This also applies for advertising: DO NOT advertise for “no kids,” “great Hispanic neighborhood,” or “home great for families.” This is against federal law.

State and local fair housing laws

In addition to Federal Fair Housing Laws, your state may also have landlord-tenant laws that must be followed regarding fair housing, which might include:

  • marital status
  • sexual orientation
  • gender identity
  • age
  • participation in the Section 8 Program or other subsidy programs

Be sure to check with your State and local laws to ensure compliance with your fair housing standards. A simple Google search for “your state” and “fair housing” should give you the answers you need.

A note on age and children discrimination

As mentioned above, Federal Fair Housing laws prevent discrimination against family status, and prohibiting children is illegal. However, there is an exception to the law, which states that certain properties that are designated as a “55+ Community.” According to HUD:

In order to qualify for the exemption, the housing community/facility must

satisfy each of the following requirements:

  1. At least 80% of the occupied units must be occupied by at least
    one person 55 years of age or older per unit.
  2. The owner or manager of the housing facility/community must
    publish and adhere to policies and procedures that demonstrate an
    intent to provide housing for persons 55 years or older.
  3. The facility/community must comply with rules issued by the
    Secretary for verification of occupancy through reliable surveys and

In other words, if 80% of the units in a community owned by you have someone older than 55 living in them, and your visible intent is to provide housing for an older age bracket, and you abide by the laws that govern this exemption, you have the ability to exclude a familial status to include only those who are 55+ in age, thus discriminating legally against those with young children.

For more information on Fair Housing laws, read this article and speak to a qualified attorney.

The Application: Six Must-Include Sections for Proper Tenant Screening

The application is the window into your tenant’s life. You must ask the right questions – and don’t ask the wrong ones (see Fair Housing above.) The following is a list of must-have sections to include and ask on your application:

  1. Name, address, phone number, and driver’s license number
  2. Social security number and date of birth
  3. Current and past landlords with contact info
  4. Employer and job details with contact info
  5. Have they ever had an eviction filed against them or broken a lease?
  6. Release of information signature

These questions are the most important for knowing the past history of your potential tenant. A good strategy to use is not to ask “have you” but instead “how many” or “when.” This makes it tougher for a tenant to lie. For example, by writing “have you been evicted,” a tenant will more easily write “no” than if it said, “how many evictions have been filed against you?”

Other questions to ask

The following is a list of other questions you may want to ask your tenant to find out more about them:

  • Requested move-in date?
  • How many animals do you have, and what kind?
  • What may interrupt your ability to pay rent?
  • Are you in Section 8?
  • How much money do you have?
  • How many felonies do you have?
  • Do you have enough cash to pay the first month’s rent and security deposit?
  • What kind of car do you drive?
  • Do you have a checking account? Savings Account?
  • How many people will be living here?
  • Emergency contacts?
  • How is your credit? Explain…
  • How did you hear about this listing?

The application must be completed completely. If it is not, I send it back to the tenant and ask them to finish it. Obviously, if they forgot one small section, I can make a phone call to find out – but I believe training your tenant to follow your policies begins here.

How to Run a Background and Credit Check

Let’s get down to the nuts and bolts of running background and credit checks – but first, allow me to explain the difference.

A background check looks at the tenant’s criminal and eviction history and for fraud or deception.

A credit check looks at the tenant’s ability to pay their bills and make loan repayments responsibly.

Several years ago, a law was passed in the United States that made checking a tenant’s credit much more difficult and cumbersome. Where before, any landlord could simply enter in the applicant’s information and get back their credit report – there are now several hoops a landlord needs to jump through, including an on-site inspection. If this is an approach you want to take, there are several reputable companies you can use.

However, at BiggerPockets, we recommend using a screening service to avoid that hassle. A popular company is called SmartMove by TransUnion. They provide the following:

  • No site inspection is needed
  • Includes both criminal and credit background
  • The tenant applies and pays online
  • The vital information from the tenant’s report is sent to you, the landlord.
  • No application process, no site inspection, no waiting period

To run a background and credit check through SmartMove, you’ll need to set up an account with the service, which should take less than two minutes. Next, you’ll enter the property information and the potential tenant’s email address.

Your potential tenant will receive an immediate email prompting them to head to SmartMove and set up an account of their own, which should take them less than two minutes. They will be required to enter their name, current address, social security number, and other information. After doing so – they will submit their credit card number for processing (though – as a landlord, you can choose to pay for this service rather than the tenant.)

Almost immediately, you’ll receive an email letting you know their information is ready to view. At this point, simply log into your account and search for the tenant via the property address.

How to Check a Tenant Credit Report:

The tenant credit report will contain a wealth of information related to the tenant’s credit history, including a detailed list of all the tenant’s open or closed credit cards, car payments, monetary judgments, late payments, and more. This information can be overwhelming, but I recommend looking for the following items:

  • Credit Score: Depending on your criteria, you may establish a minimum credit score for your tenants. The particular score may depend on your location and clientele.
  • Current and Former Addresses: Oftentimes, a tenant may conveniently “forget” a past address. Verify that the addresses given by the tenant on the application match the addresses on the credit report. The credit report may not include all the addresses, but any listed should be verified. You can ask the prospective tenant about the addresses or simply do a Google search for those addresses, and if it belongs to an apartment complex, you can call the apartment to see if the tenant ever lived there.
  • Public Records: This part of the credit report will list any judgments levied against the tenant, including garnishments or evictions with a monetary claim. Note: This does not include evictions without a monetary claim. To find these evictions, the process can be a little more complicated. Each state and county has a different way of finding out, but it should be public info in each county. You should be able to search (if your county has online records) for your tenant’s name and/or all previous addresses listed on the tenant’s credit report. Look for any cases involving a rental company or with the words “eviction” in them. It’s not easy – and most landlords simply rely on the credit report findings- but it is possible. You’ll also find out when you talk to previous landlords. My policy is to never rent to a tenant with an eviction on their record, though some landlords put a time limit on it, such as “no evictions in the past five years.” This personal choice depends largely on your risk tolerance level and the current demand for rentals in your area.
  • Vehicle Repossessions: Having a vehicle repossessed is a strong indication that a tenant cannot handle their money very well. If you notice a vehicle repossession – definitely ask more questions about this. An important note about screening a tenant using credit: In the United States of America, a law known as the Fair Credit Reporting Act states that:

    “Anyone who uses a credit report or another type of consumer report to deny your application for credit, insurance, or employment – or to take another adverse action against you – must tell you and must give you the name, address, and phone number of the agency that provided the information.”Federal Trade Commission

In other words, if the tenant’s credit history causes you to deny your tenant, you must tell them why and give them the name, address, and phone number of the credit reporting agency you used.

How to Get References During the Screening Process

The next step in the tenant screening process is requesting references from your prospective tenant’s previous landlords and employer. You may also request personal references from a tenant’s contacts at this stage.

Call previous landlords

The reference from a previous landlord is the most important one as it will give you, the prospective landlord, the most useful information about your tenant. Be very specific when speaking to the previous landlord. The question you should be asking them to include:

  • Did the tenant always pay rent on time? 
  • Were there any disputes or problems during their tenancy? If so, how were they resolved?
  • Did anyone make any complaints about the tenants? Did they get on well with the neighbors?
  • Did you have to do much to the property after they moved out in terms of repairs and cleaning?

Some landlords may be unable to answer all the questions on the phone, so emailing them may be a good idea.

You may find that some landlords, especially larger property management firms, will require you to fax them over the tenant’s release of information (which you should have on your application) along with your questions.

Call employers and verify employment

The next tenant screening step is to get in touch with their employer to check that the tenant works here; they say they do. You don’t need to request too much detail here, but ask the employer how long the tenant has been working at the company, whether their role is permanent, and what their salary is.

Again, it is much easier to request this information in writing. Your tenant should provide you with an appropriate email address, whether it’s for a manager or an HR department. It is important that the details they provide are of someone authorized to give detailed information on their employment and salary, not another employee at the company.

When talking with their previous landlords, you will likely need to fax over the “release of information” signature from the application before they agree to discuss the tenant. 

If your prospective tenant is self-employed, you can ask for their most recent employer’s details. If they run their own company and have an accountant, you can ask to reach to them for a reference on the tenant’s ability to manage their finances. You should also ask to see their tax returns, ideally from the past two years.

Get personal references

Not all landlords choose to get personal references, as it’s generally understood that friends and family will rarely give a bad reference. However, if you like a tenant but don’t have the reassurance of an employment reference (for example), getting a personal reference can be a good idea. It also gives you extra contact in case you need someone to step in for a tenant. They can become the tenant’s cosigner if it gives you peace of mind as a landlord.

Should You Allow a Cosigner?

This brings us to the question of allowing a co-signer. Should you do it? The answer is: it’s not a bad idea under some circumstances.

A cosigner is a person who agrees to be financially responsible if the tenant is unable to pay rent. They sign the rental lease along with the tenant, hence the name. A cosigner can reassure you, the landlord, that you won’t have to go through the stressful and costly process of evicting a tenant. 

Contrary to popular belief, needing a cosigner doesn’t mean that the tenant is undesirable or financially irresponsible. Some people may recently have experienced a career change or a change in family circumstances, which has affected their income. Others may be recovering from the financial ill effects of the pandemic. If you like a tenant but are not 100% sure of their long-term financial prospects, having a cosigner can benefit both you and the tenant.

If you live in a low-income area with a sluggish housing market, taking on a tenant with a cosigner can also simply make the difference between having rent come in and having a property stand empty.

Note, however, that when accepting a cosigner, you should screen them exactly like you would the tenant, running and background and credit check. Ideally, a cosigner should be resident in the county where you are renting.

Additional Ways to Screen Potential Tenants

You’ve already learned about pre-screening through your marketing and over the phone. We then looked at the importance of screening a tenant in person and the rules of Fair Housing. Next, let’s look at additional ways you can screen tenants, should you choose to.

Screening on social networks

In today’s world, people often put more information publicly on their Facebook, Twitter, or other social networks than they would even tell their own mothers. I always do a search for my potential tenants and see if I can find any information that would help me make an informed decision.

For example, a young couple once applied for one of my apartment units which do not allow pets. However, upon checking her Facebook profile page, we discovered she had a brand new puppy that she did not disclose and was attempting to hide.

What Are the Red Flags in the Screening Process?

So, as a landlord, what should you consider to be red flags during the tenant screening process? We recommend taking note of the following, which are never good signs.

They ask for rent reductions or mention that the rent is quite high

Now, only you know your own property. If you are advertising a home that still needs a few things fixed, and the tenant is asking for a temporary rent reduction to reflect that, this may not be unreasonable. However, if you are advertising a newly renovated home in a highly desirable area and the tenant starts the conversation by asking if you can rent to them for less, it’s a no-go.

They ask for a deposit reduction or payment plan

This is another sure sign the tenant isn’t in good financial health and won’t be able to afford the rent. Avoid.

They don’t appear to like their current job

While life happens to all of us and many people successfully change careers at various points in their lives, watch out for prospective tenants who seem visibly unhappy or bored in their current job. This may indicate that they haven’t come up with a plan and may just quit their job suddenly, which will jeopardize their ability to pay rent.

They wanted to move in yesterday

If a tenant is in a great rush to move, this may indicate that they have been evicted. Proceed with caution until you get all the details. In some cases, the need for a sudden move can be completely unrelated to their tenant quality and simply result from a relationship breakdown or another sudden life change. However, avoid any tenant who is trying to pressure you too hard on the move-in date.

Denying an Applicant

If you decide to deny an applicant, it is vital that you document your reasons why so there can be no question as to whether or not there was discrimination involved. By having carefully defined standards (see above), you have the ability to easily deny a tenant that does not meet your standards.
When I deny a tenant, I like to avoid complications by having the tenant “disqualify themselves,” a trick I learned from
Landlording on Auto-Pilot by Mike Butler. You have two choices if a tenant doesn’t qualify because of a bad landlord reference. Which sounds easier to you:

  1. “I’m sorry, Jerry, but your landlord gave you a terrible review, and I can’t rent to you,” or
  2. “Hi Jerry, I ran into a bit of a snag in getting positive feedback from your previous landlord – so I need you to go and speak to that landlord and get him to call me with a positive review, and we can move on. Can you do that for me, Jerry?”
  3. Jerry will, most likely, mumble, “oh – okay, sure,” and then disappear, never to be heard from again. You never disqualified Jerry – he simply gave up due to the work you needed him to do. When you do disqualify an individual, I always send a letter to them stating exactly why they were dismissed. This can be as simple as a form letter in which you check a box stating why they weren’t approved.

Typically, if a tenant applies for a property and fails to qualify – they forfeit their application fee due to the time and cost associated with working their application through. However, if you deny them simply because someone else came first, you must return their application fee.

Final Thoughts

This has been BiggerPocket’s ultimate guide to tenant screening. If you have any questions, please feel free to comment below or jump into the BiggerPockets Forum and ask questions to receive responses from dozens of qualified and seasoned landlords.

You will have learned the exact process for screening tenants at this point. Customize this guide to fit your style and location, but refer to this guide if you need a reminder or refresher on how to screen your tenants.

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Note By BiggerPockets: These are opinions written by the author and do not necessarily represent the opinions of BiggerPockets.