Wednesday, October 18, 2006

How to screen a tenant

When a potential tenant calls, there are several things I do to avoid wasting time. When they first call, they expect the landlord to lead the conversation. I usually start by describing the important details about the property. Make sure you include:

  • Location

  • Number of bedrooms

  • Monthly price, and what's included. Water, sewer, heat/oil?

  • Required amount when they sign the lease. Security deposit? First/last month's rent?

  • Parking situation: Is there a garage? Offstreet parking?

  • Date it will be available

  • Are pets allowed?

  • Requirements: credit check, background check, verifiable job?

The point of the description is to make sure the tenant knows what you're offering. Very often something in the list will turn them away and this is the end.

Next, they usually either have some additional questions about the property, which you should answer, or they'll ask to see the place. Before setting up a time to show it, there are a few questions you should ask:

  1. Who will be moving in?Make sure that the apartment is an appropriate size for the number of potential tenants.

  2. Do you have any pets? What type?Maybe you allow pets, but you don't allow elephants.

  3. When are you looking to move in? What type of lease are you looking for?This is good because often people are not planning to move for longer than you're willing to wait? Also, the other day this question saved me because a guy wanted to see the place, but it turned out that he was only looking for a three month lease, which I was not interested in.

  4. Do you have good credit? Do you have a job? What do you do?These things are important. Are you going to verify that they really have the job?

Now if they made it this far, it's time to show the property. If you make the appointment a few days out, it is good to call them the morning of to make sure they are still interested (and that they remember).

At the showing, if they are interested and I like them, I usually have them fill out an application and give an application fee. Optionally, you can offer to apply the application fee to the first month's rent if they're accepted. The fee pays for the credit and background checks (which are now a mandatory part of the process). Also, the application fee commits them until you sign the actual lease.

1 comment:

Jessica Beganski said...


I've been a landlord for a few years and I've learned a few things through trial and error that help me to find the best tenants. I'm not sure what your rental market is like but I find these strategies work pretty well in Connecticut.

1. Don't underprice. Huge mistake because you get a lot of tire kickers. Price your rent at or just above market rent in your area.

2. Advertise where your best or most likely renters are. I had first advertised in a local newspaper and found that I got a lot of calls from unqualified people. I switched to because my property is located in a hot area for young couples or college students. Plus, my advertising was free and I could post pictures.

3. To comply with fair housing, I have a sheet typed up and printed out. I read exclusively from that sheet and don't make anything up as I'm going along. I don't want one person claiming I said something to them that I didn't say to another. I also keep copious notes from callers - date, time and name.

4. I set up an open-house on a weekend. I tell callers the time and the location. If they're interested, they come. If they're qualified, they come. If they're motivated, they come. I don't waste time meeting different people. Plus, it's the most fair arrangement for my current renters. I bring my property details sheet with me, along with applications. I always rent the apartment to qualified tenants!

I may have included a few other things in a post on my blog