Screening and New Tenant Intake Procedure: Any Suggestions?

1 Reply

Dear BP Community:


After rehabbing my first unit and getting all my ducks in a row, I am on the cusp of being ready to go out on the market for the first time as a landlord. I am excited, and nervous!

I would love to get any critiques or suggestions for improvement on my screening/lease-up process below. Please let me know if you would re-order things, or if you have any suggestions at all to help me get quality tenants.

Thanks!

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CB21 Screening Process:
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1. Post ads on Craiglist/Postlets/etc with rent, minimum salary of 3x to be approved, no evictions, all positive references from previous landlords, clean background check.

2. Steer potential applicants to phonecall for live screening. Go through the following questions with potential applicant:
How did you hear about the property?
Why are you looking now?
What kind of place are you looking for? What features are important to you?
Who else will be living in the unit with you?
Does anyone smoke?
What is your current monthly income before taxes?
Have you ever been evicted or asked to leave a property?
Have you even been convicted of a felony?
Are you aware of the qualifications to submit an application?
What kind of pets do you have? What breeds? Kittens or puppies?
Are you aware of our Pet Policies?

3. If potential applicant appears qualified and interested, schedule meeting to show unit.

4. Show unit in person. Arrive early to greet tenant, get a look at how they keep their car, and make sure unit is ready to show.

5. Accept application from potential tenant, processed through RentPrep.com.

6. I make calls to current/prior landlords, employer, and references to validate information.

7. Assuming tenant passes critieria, email them to notify and invite them to sign up with Cozy to make security deposit, and ask that they call electric company to move bill to their name. Establish move-in date.

8. Setup pro-rated payment or full month payment for move-in day using Cozy.

9. Meet at coffee shop close to unit on move-in day, sign lease, hand over keys.

10. Go to unit with new tenants, give them "tenant training" on water shut-off, fireplace, fusebox, etc., and wish them well!

Thoughts:

1. You should have the lease signing way before move-in date. And until you have deposit and first month you have nothing. There's no real good reason to take a deposit to hold a house/apartment; just collect rent and deposit with lease signing.

2. Phone screening before showing will cut way back on your qualified tenants, because some otherwise qualified tenants will be annoyed or offended by the grilling before they've even seen the unit. I've heard this approach before, but that really only limits your showings. If you are doing that to limit your back and forth, batch showings together. 

3. No one is going to transfer utilities without a signed lease first. Many utilities won't even let you sign up without a copy of your signed lease in hand.

Other than that, the rest of your steps seem reasonable. I will say this, however: 90% of your tenant screening is going to happen when you meet the prospective tenant, and interact with them. It is difficult to be a successful landlord if you can't read people, because credit reports and income verification doesn't tell you anything about how much of a PITA the tenant is going to be or how reasonable they will behave as a human being. If a picture is worth a thousand words, an in-person meeting is worth a million. All the other stuff just confirms what should already be largely evident. 

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