Ultimate Guide to Tenant Screening & Renting Your House

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We just completed one of the more important guides for landlords and I thought it important that we make it visible here on the forums. These are both MUST-READS!

Tenant Screening: The Ultimate Guide
At over 5,000+ Words -- This Ultimate Guide to Tenant Screening (plus infographic) is the perfect reference tool for both novice and experienced landlords alike.

We also recommend everyone take time to check out:

How To Rent Your House: The Definitive Step by Step Guide
Whether you are a seasoned pro or a new landlord, this definitive guide will teach you, step by step, how to rent your house to new tenants with success.

I have used smartmove and it has worked out great. The problem I am now running into is on some of my low income housing, they don't have access to the internet. So getting them to get access to a computer, then get online and fill out the application is quite tough.

Anyone have suggestions for tenant screening companies where you don't need an email address for the tenant? I basically have them fill out the application by hand and sign a disclosure/release at the end so I can verify credit, background check, and other info they have.

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@Andrew Kerr  

I have run into the same issue and here are a few suggestions:

1) Use an iPad and allow the tenant to use it right there on the spot.  This of course still requires them to have an email.  You might even help them or encourage them to obtain an email address that they can check at the library.

2) I believe I have contacted MySmartMove and they had an alternative process that allowed you to do a manual check outside of the required email address.  It might be worth checking into.  

3) You can also get approved yourself to run credit checks over the phone by registering with certain credit check companies.  Often they will need to come out and verify your location, business, and see if you have a shredder and other necessary business equipment I believe.

I will say that now that I have been using the management software Buildium (that integrates with MySmartMove btw) I have been amazed by how many people, including lower income, are searching for rentals, applying, and even paying rent on their phones.

Best of luck to you.

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Just wanted to do a shout out for this one 


This is the best.  It has helped me to find drama free tenants who take care of the place time and time again.  I don't use the screenig service recommended and I add a 600+ credit score required.  It might take an extra week or two to find the right tenant, but it's so worth it for a drama free experience.

When it comes to screening prospective tenants for income, do folks rely on a service for this or simply by calling on the phone? I am about to begin screening tenants on my first place and was planning to use TransUnion's SmartMove service for background and credit checks, but was hoping there might be a one stop shop of sorts that would include income verification as well.

Looking to rent my house and this will be useful. BTW, if you hit print on any website page, you can save the page as a pdf. You can save a copy on your desktop rather than going online to read it.

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Every Land lord should read this post and download the information.

Very comprehensive information.

Thanks for keeping this at the top of the forum so it continues to be a great source for all to easily find.

I'm down, but not out. I purchased a house in a good area (affluent area), but it also drained my capital reserves. I need to rent a room or two out in order to recapitalize my reserve fund. Anyhow, I need some good solid advice as to the best approach at finding a responsible renter. In short, what screening process should I follow. Any/all advice will be greatly appreciated. Thank you.

This may be off topic slightly, but heres a question I have been wanting to ask today.  If the seller of the property still has an apt rented out, what would the buyers options be if they did not want the tenant occupying?

@Ian Davis I would start by figuring out what your screening criteria are for the rental property. Things such as pet policy, smoking policy, income requirements etc. Once you have that established you have a benchmark of what you're looking for and how you can grade tenant applicants. 

That will also help keep you compliant with your screening against state/federal laws. Research your local town/city laws for landlords and also be aware of the protected classes.

Brandon hit it on the head with his guide that the pre-screening questions are important as they help weed out applicants. Then let them know you run a background check, this will weed out applicants that might be worried about a murky past.

Use your screening criteria, intuition, and combine that with a background check to measure your applicants in order to pick the very best tenant.

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