It’s crucial to screen your tenants carefully prior to signing any agreements. An irresponsible renter could cause damage to your property, and high turnover or eviction rates can take a big toll on your business. That’s why it’s important to know how to find responsible tenants that are a good fit for your property. Here are some steps you can take to evaluate potential tenants:
Set Criteria for Your Tenants
The first step in finding great tenants for your property is to determine exactly what you’re looking for. Sit down and think about the kinds of things that are important to you. Some things to consider include income, rental history, credit score, criminal background, and more.
Once you’ve listed all of the factors that are important to you, set a criteria for your residents. This criteria will make it easier for you to review and compare applications.
Request an Application
An application is a great way to collect basic information on the renter. You can use this information to run credit and background checks while determining how honest they are on their application. When creating an application form, you should request information such as:
- Name and date of birth: This information is important when running credit, criminal, and background checks. If you plan to run credit or background checks, be sure to clearly state that the tenant is agreeing to be subjected to these checks when they submit their application.
- Employment status and history: You want to make sure that your tenants are going to be able to continuously afford rent, which is why it’s useful to get an idea of what their employment status and history is like. Gaps in employment may not be a reason to push applicants away, but applicants should be able to demonstrate that they have a stable source of income to cover rent.
- Total household income: A household’s total income should be around 2-3 times as much as the rent amount. When asking about the total household income, it may also be useful to ask how many individuals will be occupying the property to ensure that the space is large enough to accommodate each person.
- Number of pets: Pets are capable of causing damage to your property, which is why it’s useful to know how many pets the applicant has. You can use this information to determine whether it would be appropriate to require an additional pet deposit or monthly pet rent fee.
- References: References are a great resource for you to use when screening applicants. They can help you gauge the prospective tenant’s behavior and rent history.
Run Credit and Background Checks
Before running a credit check, be sure to read through the Fair Credit Reporting Act to ensure you are following the correct regulations. If you are going to run a credit check, you legally must inform applicants of their right to a free credit report through the agency. However, you may also want to check local and state laws to see if you are able to charge applicants for the cost of a credit check.
Additionally, you can use information from background checks to get a better idea of what the applicant’s past behavior is like. These reports can provide details on things like previous evictions and criminal records, which can be very useful in determining whether or not the tenant is a good fit for your property.
Don’t forget to contact the applicant’s references! Though it may be tempting to skip this step, references are a great way for you to get a first-hand account of what the prospective tenant is like. When contacting one of their previous landlords, you can ask questions such as:
- Did the applicant pay rent on time?
- Did the applicant ever receive noise complaints?
- Did you have to withhold any part of the security deposit?
- Would you rent to this applicant again?
Interview the Renter
If the prospective tenant seems like a good fit, then it may be time to schedule an interview with them. An interview allows you to get to know what the applicant is like as a person, and it gives you an opportunity to ask any additional questions that you may have. Good questions to ask include:
- Does anyone in your household smoke? If so, indoors or outdoors?
- Does anyone in your household work nontraditional or night hours?
- Do you have plans to get a roommate while living here?
- Do you have frequent overnight guests?
When conducting your interview, do not ask invasive questions and be sure that you are complying with the law. Obtrusive questions about things like sexual orientation, disabilities, age, ethnicity, family status, or religion could violate the Housing and Urban Development’s Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity requirements.
How an Experienced Property Manager Can Help
Taking the time to carefully screen and interview each applicant can easily become a full-time job, especially if you have multiple vacancies to fill. However, you don’t have to do it all alone! Experienced property managers, like those at Zenith Properties NW, have the expertise and tools needed to find great tenants quickly and efficiently. If you need help finding responsible tenants to fill your properties, just give us a call today to get started!