Screen in order. Beauty contest screening is scumbag landlording.
First off, decide your criteria for renters. Credit score over 500 or 750? Are past evictions ok with you? Criminal history?
A landlord gets into hot water when they pick and choose what criteria to accept - it's called discriminating.
I get that you want the best tenant in the property. A little more work upfront can remove a lot of the hassles. One way around this is to tell every single applicant exactly what your criteria is. Let them know that once you run their background, you will not be returning their background fee. That they are free to apply, but here is exactly what you need to qualify.
Most tenants who are significantly sub-par will hear these words and not bother applying, because they don't want to be out the $35. Take the rest of the applications and run them in the order you received them. The first applicant who meets all the criteria wins the property, the rest of the application fees should be returned.
BiggerPockets recommends MySmartMove for background checks. You create the account as landlord, and you send the prospective tenant an email invitation to fill out the application. You get the results.
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