If you are a landlord, pre-screening tenants can save time, aggravation and money. The pre-screening process begins even before the prospective tenant makes a rental application.
Done right, you’ll only end up attracting quality tenants.
Done wrong, and you might find yourself with the difficult task of an eviction.
To help you avoid that unfortunate situation, here’s how to pre-screen potential tenants.
Understand and Follow the Law
Discrimination in housing is illegal. As such, as a landlord, it’s important that you first familiarize yourself with what the law says you can and can’t ask. The Office of Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity influences these federal laws.
These laws protect people from discrimination based on some protected characteristics. These characteristics include familial status, religion, race, color, national origin, and disability.
Examples of questions you can ask include:
Avoid questions such as:
Asking these questions would be violating federal fair housing rules.
Begin Screening Tenants Using your Rental Listing
This is the first point of contact between you and your prospective tenants. In order to appeal to quality tenants, you need to make sure your rental listing is impressive. The following are must have listing details:
To effectively communicate to tenants what is expected from them, you can include a sentence like: “All applicants must approve credit and background checks and complete a rental application.”
This sentence may appear simple but you’d be surprised at how effective it can turn out to be.
Use the First Contact as an Opportunity to Ask Important Questions
It’s important that you have some questions during the first contact. It’ll help save time. Usually, a prospective renter will use either a phone or email to reach out to you. Examples of questions to ask include the following:
These type of questions help minimize the number of applicants in two ways. One, if a tenant isn’t comfortable authorizing a background or credit check, providing references, or filling out a rental application, then you don’t need to move forward with the lead.
Two, if the tenant doesn’t reach again after hearing your requirements, then you can stop moving forward with him or her.
Screening Tenants at the Property Showing
Meet each prospective tenant separately. This way, it’ll be easier for you to notice any warning signs. You’ll also be able to remember important details about the prospective tenant.
Use the property showing to look for important details. For example, does the prospective tenant:
Pre-screening is a process that takes time. However, if done properly, it can save you problems by eliminating poor quality tenants. Having the right set of questions during this process is key. It goes without saying that such questions should adhere to the federal fair housing rules.
Author Bio: Stephen Fox is a digital marketing consultant and co-founder of Upkeep Media. Upkeep Media specializes in working with the real estate industry to improve their organic search, content marketing, Google Ads, and social media marketing. He also holds a number of online certifications and is a CPA. If you're interested in working with Stephen you can contact him via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
If you liked this article, subscribe to Rentometer's email newsletter to stay up-to-date on the latest trends in rental housing.