Best Tenant Screening Strategies

7 Replies

I've got one single family rental so far and had an excellent experience with my first tenant. She's military and has taken great care of the house as well as paid on time every single month.  She's getting transferred in January and I'm looking to get advice on your best tenant screening strategies if anyone would be willing to share. I held an open house as I had so many inquiries last time - I did two nationwide eviction checks, two credit checks and one criminal background check.  I had multiple applicants and would like to avoid the open house this time.

Would love some advice on how to make the process better/smoother this time around! I plan to start by advertising in Military By Owner rather than putting it out on Craigslist and Facebook. What are your minimum requirements? Do you run one check at a time (first come, first served)? Do you run them simultaneously and pick the top candidate based on your criteria? Any other tips from more experienced landlords?

@Robin Searle   Glad to hear you had such a good experience the first time around with your tenant.  I personally like open houses because it minimizes my time.  I can show multiple people the house and be done in an hour or so.  I usually give out applications and an info sheet and they can fill it out onsite or at home and email it to me.  I use and set it so that the tenant pays for the fee themselves.  That way all I have to do if there is multiple is review the report before moving forward to calling employers and past landlords.  If I get multiple applicants, I look through their application and make sure they are not automatically disqualified (no evictions in the past 7 years, 3x the rent in income, no pets on my insurance's "no pet" list ect).  If they look good then I will send them the request to process there background/eviction check.  I don't let them do a background/eviction check (costs them money) if I already know they will not qualify so that I can at least sleep at night.  

I don't think you should limit yourself to only military.  It is a pain to deal with the potential headache of multiple applicants and open houses, but that 3-4 hours of stress once is way better to me than a year or more of headaches because a bad tenant was chosen.  

What you might want to do is ask your current tenant if she knows anyone that is looking for a place and let your tenant market for you at the military base she is working. Obviously they will go through the same screening process as any other tenant but you might not even have to advertise if your current tenant brings you the next tenant.

Finally, if I know I have multiple people interested that meet my criteria, I always try to get them all to submit an application and complete background check so that I have multiple applicants to choose from.  I always keep track of who submits and application first but the nice thing about is that they give an actual "renter" number so it makes it very easy for me to not have to deal with discrimination issues because I pick the "Most Qualified" tenant which is documented by's reports.

@ryandetig Thank you so much for the input! I appreciate you taking the time to share your process!

I use a point system, a one page sheet that gets added to the top of the application.  As applications come in I do an initial scoring based on the information I can get to quickly.  Each subtotal leads me to yes, no, or maybe.  The no's get no more attention until I notify them it has been rented, the maybe's sit for awhile until I exhaust my yes's.  I start making phone calls and verifying the info I can for free to see if they gain or lose points, then decide whether to spend money on credit and criminal. That info gets added to a final score.  I have point ranges for yes or no and if I have multiple people at the same time offer goes to the highest point application.  It's objective, it reduces my screening costs and energy.  My points were built by looking at good and bad applications, and going back to applications after knowing how the experience was to see what clues I ignored.  I'm happy to share my system with anyone who provides an e-mail address.

@Michele Fischer I would love a copy of your system!  Thank you so much! I'll message you my email as it's not allowed here.

Applications and reports are great, but don't forget your nose. The best time to figure out a tenant is when showing them the place, that's why I dislike open houses, though I sometimes do them. Someone who's distancing or defensive when you're showing them the home is probably not going to be a great tenant.

@Ryan Detig So you have the applicants fill out a paper application that you review and then if you like the way it looks you send them a request from the web service?  Is there a difference in the information they provide to you vs info they give to the web service?  Thanks.

@Jon Reed that is correct. They give me a paper application filled out. I️ use that for references and job info for my due diligence. The online part I send them is just for the background eviction and criminal checks. They don’t provide other info online they just consent to have the checks done and they pay for it and it gets sent to me.

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