Tenant Screening

8 Replies

Hey all,

About to hire a property manager for my first property, and even though I will be working with them to find a tenant for the house, I want to know in general what criteria you guys use to screen for potential tenants? What should  be on the lookout for?

Thanks for all your help so far, still very excited about this house.

You have your standard cookie cutter answer of

credit check. No felonies. 3x. Income etc....

Besides those my biggest thing I avoid in a tenant is any sign of aggression or combativeness. If I feel the slightest bit of those traits when talking to a prospective tenant I immediately pass.

I think more reserved people make much better tenants 

I know a guy who prefers to rent to old people & women over younger to middle aged men, if possible

He says the chances of a hole being punched in the drywall or a door are much lower.

Beyond the standard credit/income/background checks, I look for tenants that will be low maintenance. If a prospective tenant is late (or extremely early) for the showing or open house, wants to pay the rent/security deposit/pet fee in installments, begs me to reconsider my no-pet policy, etc. I pass on them. I'm very no-nonsense, so if I get a sense they'll be high maintenance I pass.

Automatic disqualifiers: prior evictions, drug and sex offenses and any felonies.

The administrative screening elements that all have mentioned are important. Income, credit, criminal, evictions: Check the box on all of those. But more importantly, piece together the story.

References and existing landlords aren't good indicators of the tenant experience you'll have. Personal references won't typically say anything bad, and if the current landlord wants to get rid of the tenant, they'll give a good review too.

We find clues to the story in the following way:

  • Do they show up on time for appointments?
  • Are they polite, respectful, and courteous?
  • Do they do what they say they are going to do, when they said they would?
  • Do they keep their car clean? (Fail none - we amazingly find this to have a strong correlation as to how clean they'll keep their home).
  • Are they well-groomed and presentable?
  • Do they pass the buck if they fall short, on say delivering information on time. If they don't do it when they say, do they give an excuse as to someone else's fault, or do they own it?
  • Do they carry around drama in their life? Victim stories?
  • Are they prepared? Do they proactively provide information they know they'll need for the screening process, or do you have to chase them down for it?
  • Do they complain?
  • Do they have multiple traffic violations? Disrespect for authority?
  • How many court records do they have, even for misdemeanors or domestic cases?
  • and more...

Use your intuition. Use all of the elements above to piece together the story. Does the story align with the administrative screening elements?

Updated over 4 years ago

Redact my comment about being well groomed and presentable. "Personal Appearance" is protected in Harford, Howard, and Prince George's Counties. This is defined as: The outward appearance of any person, irrespective of sex, with regard to hair style, faci

Updated over 4 years ago

facial hair, physical characteristics or manner of dress.

Once they meet the basic criteria, a demonstrated history of not being a rule breaker. I look them up in the online county lawsuit databases. If they are fighting with everyone, getting sued and suing people, getting pulled over multiple times for DUIs, not having insurance, etc., I seriously doubt they are going to get my written approval to modify the residence or honor my pet or smoking policy. And not someone who starts fighting with me when I go through our screening policy and why it shouldn't apply to them, no one combative.

I have to say one thing that I didn't know to look for is someone who is not pushy.  If they have to have  things done on their timeframe during the showing process that is not going to change. If they will only look at the property or drop off the application Thursday at 2pm I don't bend over backwards to meet their timeframe.  Those have been the most demanding tenants in the long run.  A reasonable consideration and back and forth is fine but total inflexibility is going to continue and it irritates me. It also indicates that considerations of others isn't going to be  something they are good at  so other  tenants and repair people are going to have problems with an inflexible  tenant.

The normal check the box stuff is a good start.

Depending on the value of the rental or the avg monthly rent, I like to do income verification. That's something you'll see in more "bubble" markets, like San Francisco or NYC.

Another thing I like to do is run them through an eviction database. You'd be surprised how put together "professional tenants" can look..

The thing I like to remind people is this: There are two main questions you need to answer:

1.Can these people pay the rent for the duration of the lease?

2. Based on the information I have,  will they keep the property in good condition and not cause trouble?

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