Tenant screening is one of the most difficult aspects of being a landlord. You can hire a great property manager to handle the process for you; however, it is still a great idea to be familiar with the process. The better job you do of screening tenants, the better experience you will have with renters. Follow these 3 tips to help you in the process of tenant screening, or check in with your property manager to see if they do these things.
Pre-screen Tenants Prior to Showing the Property
This can be a huge time saver in tenant screening, whether you do it yourself or your property manager handles it. Showing properties is time
consuming and often unnecessary. Take the time to pre-screen the tenants by phone first. Ask basic questions like how many people will be living in the property, with the specifics of how many children and how many adults. Ask about the income of each adult moving in. Indicate to the potential tenant that you will run full credit report and background checks. Ask them what will show up on their reports.
When phrasing your questions for the pre-screening, ask specific questions that do not allow for a yes or no answer. You will likely get a more truthful answer with this approach. For example, instead of asking, “Do you have the security deposit and first month’s rent now?” ask something like, “When will you have the security deposit and first month’s rent payment available?” It is harder to be vague or dishonest when questions are more pointed.
Peek at the Car and Current Residence
If you want to get a good idea of how a person lives and takes care of things, you can get a glimpse by taking a look at his or her car and house. When you show a property, walk the potential tenant back to their car. Get a good look at the backseat and floorboards of the car. If there is food leftovers and wrappers and trash everywhere, you may want to pass on them as a tenant. Often, if that is the way they care for the car, it is likely it will be how they care for your property. Tenant screening includes getting an idea for how the potential tenant will treat the property.
Likewise, try to create an opportunity to see their current home. Don’t give a lot of notice for them to spruce things up, either. You might offer one day to drop the lease agreement by when you will be near their current home. Pay special attention to kitchens, bathrooms, lawn care, and walls in the home. The way they treat their current residence is also a good indicator of how they will treat your property.
Tenant screening should always include checking references – both employers and current and past landlords. Do not be afraid to inquire about working habits, cleanliness, promptness with payment, and more. Speak with the tenant’s supervisor, asking questions about promptness, whether they are respectful of company rules, reliability, etc. It’s also a good idea to speak with an HR representative to verify employment and reported income. If their reported income does not match what the HR representative tells you, you should mark that as a big hurdle.
When speaking with current and past landlords, ask about all the things you would want to tell a possible future landlord about a terrible tenant. How do they handle the property? Do they stick to the stipulations laid out in the lease agreement? Are they prompt with payment? How often do they contact the landlord with a problem – real or perceived? As with pre-screening the tenant, more pointed questions are better.
In conclusion, these three simple tips for tenant screening will help save you time and money by avoiding disaster with your tenants. Every landlord wants the best possible return on investment with a property. Carefully screening tenants is one of the best ways to get to a great ROI. Whether you complete the process or your property manager, be sure your tenant selection is thorough and accurate.