How to Screen a Tenant: The Best Screening Process

How to Screen a Tenant Key Points

1. What is Tenant Screening

2. Qualities to Look for During the Tenant Screening Process

3. Set Minimum Requirements

4. Pre-Screen Potential Tenants

5. In-Person Screening

6. Preventing Discrimination

7. Application Process

8. How to Select a Tenant


Screening a tenant properly is the first offensive step in your defense against getting a bad tenant.

And we all know that a good offense is the best defense!

Despite knowing they should go through a systematic screening process, most landlords simply don’t know how to do it correctly.

Some, don’t even do it at all.

This guide is a step by step process to ensure you not only screen your tenant correctly, but you do so in a manner that is consistent with federal, state, and local housing laws.


 A Brief Note About Local Laws Related to Tenant Screening


The advice we provide in this guide will work in any rental market.  The fact remains, however, that you must make sure the advice we provide is not in conflict with any of your local or state laws.

Although we have made this guide with the idea that we would provide advice on the pretty much uniform laws across the country, there are some things which are locality and state specific.

So make sure you double check with your state.

Ok. . . . Let’s begin.


What is Tenant Screening?


Tenant screening simply means you are vetting the tenant to determine if the tenant will be a good fit for your Fayetteville, NC house and home for rent.

It is not just a cursory look into the tenant. You are taking a deep dive and looking at some intimate aspects of the tenant’s life.

The tenant screening process involves looking into the information the tenant provides, as well as analyzing objective information that you discover.

You are essentially putting together a pattern of life for your potential tenant during the screening process, albeit an abbreviated one.

This pattern of life will provide you with a reasonable understanding of whether or not someone will be a good tenant.

Although extremely helpful and vital, you can not be 100% sure, but you should take your tenant screening process seriously, because it will help you avoid some headaches down the road.


Qualities to Look for During Your Tenant Screening Process


Your objective, is to identify those subjective and objective qualities that will make your life, and business relationship, with your tenant easier.

No one quality should be viewed as being more important than the other, and each should be viewed in conjunction with one another, in order to build your best avatar of your model tenant.

Ultimately your goal is to not have to evict your tenant, but there are a lot of issues that come up regardless of if a tenant pays the rent or not.

And at all costs, you want to avoid these headaches.


Set Minimum Requirements When Screening Tenants


In order to find your best tenant during your tenant screening process, you must know who you are looking for.

One of the most important steps in your tenant screening process is developing your minimum list of requirements for your property.

This list shouldn’t be hidden, and only known to you.

Your screening criteria should be apparent to a tenant even before the tenant makes contact with you.

This means your screening criteria should be on the website where you list your property for rent; on the application you send to tenants; articulated during telephone conversations with potential tenants; and told in person when you meet a tenant for a showing.

Every single place!!!!  Keep it upfront!!!

The purpose of making the screening criteria known is so that there is a clear understanding of what your requirements are, so you don’t end up wasting your, or the tenant’s, time.

Clearly communicating with tenants, potential and current, is one of the foundations of being a good landlord.

While you may end up with a few potential tenants who may still apply, despite not meeting your threshold requirements, this number will be a lot smaller than would be if you didn’t have your tenant screening requirements posted.

So what are some minimum requirements?

Glad you asked!!!


Tenant Minimum Requirement 1: Financial Ability to Pay the Rent


All other qualities aside, the tenant’s ability to pay the rent is at the forefront.

The vast majority of headaches for landlords come from tenant’s who are unable to pay their rent on time.

Not only is the cost of nonpayment of rent a headache, and draining financially, the cost and hassle of having to evict a tenant is just as burdensome.

And the fact remains that even if you win a monetary judgment after an eviction, you may have a hard time collecting the judgment after.

To prevent any potential problems with payment of the rent, we recommend, at a minimum, you require the tenant make at least 2.5-3 times the monthly rental amount.

Preferably 3 times the amount.

While this is just a base level of income recommendation, and you can adjust this to the left and right, we have found a 3 times rental amount requirement alleviates a lot of tension, and is a pretty decent indicator of a tenant’s ability to pay rent on time.


Tenant Minimum Requirement 2: No Prior Evictions


You know the old saying past performance is not indicative of future results?

Well in the case of a tenant who has gone through an eviction proceeding, the past performance is more indicative of a future result than you may believe.

Many landlords focus on credit score, or credit history, as an indication of whether or not a tenant will be responsible, but credit score is not the end all be all (we discuss credit score in more detail below).

There are some tenants who may not have the best credit scores, but have an otherwise unblemished, solid, rental history, as reported by their previous landlords.

There are other tenants who have decent credit scores, who have gone through the eviction process.

The point being, is that if a tenant has an eviction, absent extraneous circumstances, it is likely that they prioritized their resources elsewhere.

You don’t want to be the landlord who has to locate a former tenant to serve claims for damages after an eviction.


Tenant Minimum Requirement 3: Employment History


We placed employment history separate from financial ability to pay the rent, because it is a different component.

And one that is often overlooked in the proper way to screen a potential tenant.

When looking at the employment history of a tenant, you are not only looking at if they are currently employed, but you are also considering the length of employment.

Length of employment is divided into two categories.


The Potential Tenant’s Length of Employment


The first is the overall length of time the tenant has been employed continuously. This measurement should be done in years.

Sure there may be breaks in the employment history of the tenant, but they should be for valid reasons.

Advanced schooling or taking time off to raise children are examples.

What you want to avoid are huge gaps in employment without a valid reason. These are red flags.


The Potential Tenant’s Character of Length of Employment


Second, you want to look at the character of the length of employment.

What we mean by this, is that you want to avoid the job hopper.

Job hopping can occur or a number of reasons, but our experience has shown us that it is usually a result of the tenant losing a job.

While some job loses are avoidable, if the tenant’s employment history shows job hopping, it should be a red flag for you as a landlord.

We aren’t saying that all job hopping is bad.  This is especially true if it is in a related field, or where there was a growth opportunity for the tenant.

What we are referring to is job hopping that makes no sense.

Staying jobs for short periods of time; jobs in different fields; and skipping over or having gaps in job history are a few types that should put you on guard.


Tenant Minimum Requirement 4: Clean Background Check


It goes without saying that, along with running a credit check on your tenant, you should also run a background check.

In some cases, landlords do not run background checks on some tenants because they believe the tenant is an upstanding citizen.

We are here to tell you that, even the best tenant on paper may have things in their background check which would caution you against renting to them.

Additionally, and here is one of the biggest things you should consider, if you pick and choose who you are going to run a background check on, it could set you up for a discrimination lawsuit down the road.

Our best advice is to run a background check, along with the rest of your screening criteria, on all tenants that put in an application.

When looking at the background check, you want to look at it with a keen eye on how the tenant may be during their period of residence.

Take into account the nature, extent, and timeframe of anything negative you find in a background check when you screen your tenant.

A tenant who had an underage drinking charge in college 15 years ago, probably doesn’t raise a significant red flag.

A potential tenant who committed a felony a year prior, is probably one you may want to pass on.

Again, it’s a case by case basis as to what you will tolerate in terms of a criminal background check, but make sure you do it with an eye towards your avatar tenant.

One important thing to note. Some state and local laws limit the amount of information you can use in a background check on potential tenants.

It is incumbent upon you to research the laws in your jurisdiction, to make sure you are in compliance.


How to Pre-Screen Your Potential Tenants


Ok. So you have your list of minimum qualifications. What’s next?

The next thing you want to do is set up your pre-screening process.

As we stated earlier, having the minimum requirements will help you weed out the tenants you aren’t looking for.

Pre-screening the tenant’s allows you to cut down on wasted time.

Despite what some landlords believe, the screening process does not begin with processing the application, or conducting the credit and background check.

The screening process begins with the tenant’s initial contact with you, or your online advertisement.

The purpose of putting the checks and balances into your tenant pre-screening process, is to narrow down your pool of applicants, until the good ones come through.

It’s kind of like shifting through muddy water with a pan, to find that nugget of gold.


Pre-Screening Your Tenants By Way of Your Advertisements


It doesn’t matter which platform you use to advertise your property, it is likely your first contact with a potential tenant will come from an online source.

It doesn’t matter if you use Zillow, Facebook, Craigslist, Hotpads, or any other online market place, your ad should be used to screen out potential tenants.

Your advertisement should be clear and concise when it comes to not only the amenities in your property for rent by owner, but also your criteria.

Some typical things you want to include are:

1. The Location of the Property.  This allows you to screen out people who are not looking to live in your part of town. If you don’t want to include your exact address, you can narrow it down to a part of town or a landmark.

2. Property Details.  Give as many details on your property as possible. Yes there may be great schools in the area, but your focus at the moment is on your property. You should get detailed on things like not just the total square footage of the home, but also dimensions of the main rooms in the house. All 4 bedroom homes are not the same, and remember your goal is to screen out tenants. if the rooms are too small, you don’t want to waste your time showing the property.

The same goes true for your other amenities; washer and dryer, pool, basement, etc. Details and pictures. This way your potential tenant can tell if your property is what they are looking for.

3. Rental Amount.  Clearly state the amount of the monthly rent, and when the rent is due each month.

4. Total Move In Costs. Identify the total move in costs that are associated with the property. Don’t simply say “first month and security deposit.” Clearly identify what the exact amount in your screening process the tenant will have to pay to move into your property. If it’s $3,000, then say that. Don’t leave the guessing to your tenant.

5. Pet Policy.  Provide notice of if you accept pets; any breed or weight restriction; pet deposits or pet rent; or the type of pets allowed. Remember, however, you cannot discriminate on tenants who have service and emotional support animals, this is a costly mistake some landlords make.  For your purposes, treat service and emotional support animals as tenants, not as pets.

6. Smoking Policy.  You smoking policy should be set up front.  This way, again, there is no miscommunication.  Sure, tenants will lie and say they didn’t smoke.  But now you have the listing, the application, and the lease agreement to show that they shouldn’t have.  So the complaining when it comes to withholding money from the security deposit should stop.

7.  Income and Employment Verification.  You want to put up front that you will be verifying a tenant’s income, as well as their place of employment.  This is important for the tenant who may be attempting to con you to understand.  We go into income and employment verification more down below.

Along similar lines, if you have an income threshold based off of your potential applicant’s income and your rental price, put it in there also.  As we stated above, a 3 times the rental amount is a good starting point.

8.  Criminal History.  As we stated earlier, criminal history can be a touchy point.  Whether you ask about a tenant’s criminal history, and if you can use it as a discriminatory basis for housing is going to depend on your state and local laws.  Make sure you check them to verify if you can ask the questions or not.  If you do decide to ask, put it up front if it will factor into your decision making process.

9.  Credit Score and History.  If you are setting a baseline credit score and history a tenant must have, you should include it in your advertisement.  I would also go so far as to say it is non-negotiable if that is the case.  You can also use “preferred.”  Remember, however, credit score is just one component in the calculation, and doesn’t necessarily give you a full picture.

10.  How Many Tenants Are Allowed to Occupy the House.  Putting up the number of authorized tenants will steer potential tenants away who are trying to pack and Animal House. Generally speaking, housing laws make it 2 per bedroom.  The exception to this is when it comes to septic tanks.  Septic tank occupancy is limited by the septic tank certification.

11.  Residential History.  Put up front that you will verify the potential tenant’s residency with previous landlords during your tenant screening process. As discussed below, checking with previous landlords is absolutely necessary.

12.  Available Date of Property.  This is a no brainer, make sure you let potential tenant’s know when the property will be available.

13.  The Application Process.  Clearly spell out the tenant pre-screening and application process.   We set forth a method to pre-screen your tenants below, that should help you manage and screen bad tenants.

Now that we got the advertisement out of the way, let’s more on to when the tenant makes initial contact.


Pre-screening Your Tenant On the Phone or Email


After your tenant has made it through your online ad, the next step is for the tenant to reach out to you by telephone, or by email.

Our recommendation is for you to have the tenant email you first, or fill out a form online, and then follow up with a telephone call if need be.

We advise you to use email because you can create an email specifically for your property, and use email correspondence as a further pre-screening tool for your potential tenant.

The way you go about setting up the email is to create an email address such as

This email address allows you to use it repeatedly for your rental property, as well as not being bombarded with emails that clog up your other accounts.

Additionally, use of email will allow you to create a template pre-screening worksheet you can send to potential tenants.

A template that you send out will save you more time than you may imagine. If you have a popular property you will be bombarded with questions, and you don’t want to eat up your time responding to them all.

Bonus points if you add the template to a downloadable link in Google drive to have them fill it out.  This makes it unnecessary for you to have to send them the pre-screening criteria.

Whether you use email, or you use the telephone, the screening criteria will essentially be the same.


What Questions Should You Ask During the Pre-Screening Process?


If it is not readily apparent from either the email, or the beginning of your telephone conversation, you should ensure that the tenant meets your minimum requirements.

If you don’t your tenant pre-screening advertisement, as well as your established minimum criteria, are of little to no value.

If you are taking tenant inquiries by email, this is simple.

You send the tenant a copy of a pre-screening form for them to fill out, which clearly lists your criteria, and have the tenant send it back to you.

This process will alleviate you having to spend time on the phone with a tenant who will not meet your basic qualifications.

If you are pre-screening the tenant by phone, and again we recommend email, then you can also prepare for the process by creating a script.

The script should go something like this:

Potential Tenant: Hi, I’m calling about the property you have listed at 1234 Main Street in Fayetteville. Are you the owner?

Landlord: Yes, I’m the owner. I’m sorry, I didn’t catch your name.

Potential Tenant: I’m James. Is the property still available?

Landlord: Yes it is still available. Have you had a chance to look at the criteria on our ad for the property.

Potential Tenant: Yes I have.

Landlord: Ok, I want to go over some important things from the ad, just to make sure we are on the same page.

Then you go over the screening criteria, and follow up the conversation by providing the potential tenant with your email address, and informing them to send you an email so you can provide them with the pre-screening application.

You have them send you the email requesting the application, as opposed to you volunteering to send them the information.

Some questions you may want to ask include:

1.  How soon are you looking to move?

2.  Are you currently leasing a property?

3.  Where are you currently residing?

4.  Are you renting from an individual landlord or a company?

5.  Will your current landlord and past 3 landlords give you a positive referral?

6.  Why are you moving?

6.  What is your current rental rate?

7.  Are you currently employed?

8.  How long have you been working there?

9.  Is your income at least XXX (whatever 3 times your rental rate is)?

10.  Are you willing to verify your income with paystubs and have me contact your employer for verification?

11.  How many total people will be living on the lease?

12.  Do you have any pets?  We charge a pet fee of _______ is that ok?

13.  Do you smoke?

14.  We perform a criminal background check, is that ok?  Is there anything that we should know about?

15 .  We charge a total of ______ to move in, which includes a security deposit and 1st month’s rent, is that OK? (also add in any other fees based upon pets etc.)

This list is most certainly not exhaustive.  As a landlord you can pretty much ask anything you want, so long as your questioning and advertising doesn’t break any Fair Housing or American’s With Disability Act laws.

While you don’t want to be the creepy person who asks what kind of deodorant they wear, make sure you ask all the questions necessary to develop a comprehensive picture.


Screening the Tenant Based on Tenant Questions.


Another important job you have is to actually listen to the tenant’s responses to your questions.  The responses a tenant provides, as well as some of the questions by the tenant that are not solicited, will provide you with valuable insight into the tenant during your screening process.

Some questions which should almost immediately raise red flags include:

“Is there any way I can get the property for a lower amount?”

“Can I prorate the security deposit?”

“I was evicted before, but it wasn’t my fault. Is that ok?”

“I quit my job and am looking for a new on. Should I still apply?”

All of these questions, and many others, will easily be referenced in your readily available tenant screening criteria, but sometimes tenant’s either care not to read, or think you will bend the rules.

In instances when a potential tenant asks these types of questions, that have been addressed in your pre-screening criteria, simply say:

“Our application and tenant criteria is posted on ___________. Our requirement is that our potential tenants meet the minimum criteria, along with the financial requirements set forth in the advertisement.”

Paying particular attention to the questions asked by tenants as a part of your screening process will give you some idea of the type of tenants they will be.

And it’s not just what you may view as bad questions you should be paying attention to. You should also consider the good questions.

If a tenant asks focused questions, that weren’t answered in your tenant screening advertisement, you should take note.

On the flip side, if a tenant asks questions that were easily answered by reading your ad, you should also take note of that.

We aren’t saying these should be the end all be all, but it is just another piece of criteria you can use when screening and evaluating your tenant.


In-Person Screening of Your Potential Tenant


Once a potential tenant has passed the online advertisement and the email or telephone tenant screening process, now comes the time to meet with the tenant.

Because you have been selective throughout the process, you now should have viable potential tenants to meet with, rather than wasting your time.

The process is the same as before. You are vetting the tenant, and informing them of your screening process and application process.

This time, you have the additional benefit of “looking the tenant in the eye.”

You can judge the tenant’s demeanor at this point, and they way they carry themselves.

Think about these things:

Is this the type of tenant that will take care of my property?

Is there anything that seems out of the ordinary?

Did the tenant drive up in a brand new Mercedes-Benz, yet asked me to reduce the rental amount for my property?

You get the point.

Again, you want to stay away from making judgments or opinions which could form the bases of a housing or discrimination violation.  Stick to the script, stick to your legal tenant screening criteria, and you will be fine.


What Do You Do After the In-Person Tenant Meeting?


At the end of the in person meeting with the tenant, you can handle this the right way or the wrong way.

The wrong way is to tell the tenant that they do not qualify for the property, and they shouldn’t apply.

The right way is to tell the tenant, at this point, that you have an established criteria on your ad, and you provided them with the same criteria when they applied. Tell the tenant that they are free to apply for the property, and that you will process their application, along with other applications.

Why do we say that?

Because we want you to avoid, at all costs, a claim of housing discrimination.

If you think an eviction is bad, a claim of housing discrimination, whether valid or not, has the potential to suck you into a financial blackhole.

Since we have talked at length about housing discrimination, let’s do a brief overview.


Protected Classes and Discrimination When Screening Tenants


Remember we said to make a set of minimum criteria by which to screen all of your potential tenants?

And remember when we said you should screen every tenant the same exact way?

As a landlord, there are a lot of ways you can screen a tenant legally, and not have to worry about a thing.

You might be able to go so far as to forbid anyone with a blue car from becoming a tenant (although this would be kind of petty)

Despite this broad discretion, there are some classes of tenants you absolutely cannot discriminate against or you will be in violation of federal law.

And the class of tenants gets broader by way of state and local housing laws.

For purposes of this guide, we will stick to the federal housing violations.


But the Fair Housing Act Doesn’t Apply to My Property!


Yes.  We hear it all the time from landlords.

“I don’t have to follow the Fair Housing Act because it doesn’t apply to me.”

Well. . .  .yes and no.

So here are some considerations for you to think about.

Single family homes that are rented without the use of a real estate agent, or don’t advertise, are exempt from the federal Fair Housing Act, so long as the owner doesn’t own more than homes at one time.

Ok. . . . .Got it!!!!

The same applies to the rental of a single room in a home, and housing operated by religious or private organizations if certain requirements are met.

Ok. . . . . .Got that too!!! 

Additionally, apartments which are four units or less are exempt if the owner lives in one of the units.

Crystal clear. . . . . I’m on a roll!!!

But how about all those state and local laws?  Those laws that are written all over the place.  What do those mean?

And what about the Americans with Disabilities Act, how does that come into play?

See what we’re getting at?

It Gets Even Better!!!


How about all those other laws, which don’t address housing discrimination, but can be applied to housing.  You know, all those laws that lawyers find to make your life miserable, just to make a quick buck.

The point being, the best practice tip is to run your rental as if all of the laws apply to you.  Don’t try to carve out your own exception, because it can and will get costly.

Now back to our discussion.


What are the Protected Classes in Screening?


When screening a potential tenant, you are free to discriminate based upon your perception of the tenant’s inability to pay rent; lack of employment history; and any significant criminal history.

There is little protection for a tenant who falls into one of these categories.

On the other hand, discriminating against a potential tenant who belongs to a protected class in your screening process, is against federal, state, and local law.

The premise behind non-discrimination is to afford everyone equal housing opportunity. 

We’ll get into the protected classes after we discuss what exactly is equal housing opportunity. 


What is Equal Housing Opportunity


Equal housing opportunity, as the name suggests, essentially means that every person shall have access to housing equally.

Access to housing applies to both the sale, and leasing of property.

The Fair Housing Act makes it illegal to discriminate against any person based upon, race, color, national origin, religion, sex, familial status, or disability.

Discrimination doesn’t just apply to rejecting a potential tenant who falls into one of the protected categories, it also applies to how you advertise and market the property.


Things to Avoid in Your Property Advertisement for Tenants


As a best practice, in your advertisement and conversation with potential tenants during your screening process don’t:

  • Advertise that the property is a good home for a family;
  • Prohibit children;
  • Advertise what churches are nearby; or
  • Advertise it would be a great neighborhood for a particular race, color, or ethnic group.


These are just a few examples of how your ad can be interpreted as a violation of the Fair Housing Act.

And while this may seem like common sense, you would be surprised at some of the listing advertisements landlords run.

Don’t be the one that violates the law.


Does the Language Only Apply to Advertisements?


The same prohibition applies to your conversations with potential tenants in-person, over email, or over the phone.

Don’t ask if they have children, if they are married, or what race they are.

As far as children, you can ask how many occupants will be in the home. This is a valid question, but stay away from asking about children unless the potential tenant volunteers it during the screening process.

You may think your comments and questions are harmless and nice but, no matter how nice and harmless your questions may seem, the receiver of your questions is the important person. 

None of this should be a consideration during your screening process, and will end you up on the wrong side of the law.


Remember State and Local Fair Housing Laws in Your Tenant Screening Process


In addition to the above identified protected classes, many states have implemented additionally Fair Housing Laws under their respective Landlord and Tenant Acts.

Some additional conduct which may be in violation under the laws of a particular state or locality include:

  • Sexual Orientation;
  • Gender Identity;
  • Age;
  • Marital Status; and
  • Section 8 Recipients.

Again, and we can’t keep saying this enough, it is incumbent upon you to find out what additional protections your state or local government impose upon you as a landlord.

Honestly, our best advice is to follow the most restrictive path, as this is the best way for you to avoid a potential discrimination lawsuit.


Exception to Age and Familial Discrimination


Just like everything under the law, there are always exceptions. Otherwise lawyers wouldn’t have a job, and couldn’t always tell you “It depends.”

The Fair Housing Act provides an exception to discrimination on the basis of age and familial status, but it probably will not apply to you as a landlord.

Housing communities designated as 55+ are exempted from the age and familial discrimination if:

1. At least 80 percent of the units are occupied by at least one person over 55;
2. The over 55 policies and procedures must be published and adhered to by the owner;
3. Must comply with rules issued by HUD relating to verification and occupancy.


The Application and Your Tenant Screening Process


If your potential tenant has gotten this far in the screening process, now comes the application.

The application gives you the most information about the tenant, and will provide you with some insight as to the quality of applicant you are dealing with.

If you have gotten this far, and taken the advice we gave, you probably have a solid pool of applicants from which to choose.

There are a variety of things you want to include in your application to make sure you have the best possible information to make your decision.

You want to ask direct, specific questions, to get this information.

And if you have gone through all the pre-screening so far, you know the answer to a lot of these questions.

Remember, however, don’t step on the toes of the Fair Housing Act, or any of your state or local laws.

We have broken these items down into two categories:  Vital and Necessary.

Some things you want to include in your application are:


1. Name
2. Address
3. Phone Number
4. Driver’s License Number
5. Current Employer and Past Employers
6. Current and Past Landlords
7. Any Eviction History
8. Any Debt Collection Actions
9. Release of Information for Employers and Landlords


1. Banking Information
2. Credit Score or Rating
3. How many people will be living on the property
4. Emergency contact information
5. And felony convictions
6. Pets
7. Move in date

So now that you have all this information, what do you do?


Get on the Phone to Verify the Tenant’s Application Information


The first thing you need to do is to actually pick up the phone.

I know this is a hard pill to swallow, especially in today’s day and age where we want instant gratification.  But we are here to tell you that you actually want to speak with someone on the other end.


Tenant submits a paystub and tax returns during the tenant screening process?

Great!!!  He followed your instructions.

Now get on the telephone and verify employment, as well as employment history.


Tenant says his landlord thinks he is the best thing on earth?

Great!!!! Get on the phone and talk to the landlord.

As a matter of fact, talk to every landlord the tenant has rented from over a period of 5 years. 

Why you may ask?  Because  the current landlord sometimes lies to get rid of her headache. 

And this happens often. 

You know who also lies?  Credit reports and background checks. 

We can’t tell you how many times landlords have been burned by not following up on information contained in the application.  The vast majority of them rely on the report that is generated by the system.

We are here to tell you, reports can be filled with errors.

Not only is it potentially financially problematic or you as a landlord, it is also a disservice to the applicant.

Trust that the paperwork is correct, but verify it is in fact accurate.

Go Over the Tenant’s Screening Application With a Fine Tooth Comb


You don’t want to simply gloss over an application.  You really want to dig into it.

Applications that are incomplete go off to the side.  Don’t contact a potential tenant during your screening process and ask them for more information.

Simply move on to the next application.  You can always go back.

In our opinion, the inability to follow the simple, detailed application, reflects poorly on the tenant.  If you have a ton of applications, you won’t have to the time to chase all of them down.

Skip it, and go back later on if you desire.

And your fine tooth comb means that if you can’t verify anything with objective data, you get on the phone. Talk to a human.


Build an Order of Merit List for Your Potential Tenants


You don’t have to, and you shouldn’t, accept the first application that comes in your door.

And we don’t recommend you do this.

As a result, you should establish an order of merit list for all of your applications.

You don’t have to wait until you get a ton, nor should you wait a long time, but you also shouldn’t jump on the first one or two.

After you have established your order of merit list, the next step is to work down the list and offer the tenants your rental property.

As you work down the list, if someone accepts the offer, let the other tenant’s know that you found someone else.  You don’t have to go into detail about it, just keep your notification standard, and do it in writing.

What you do want to tell them is that you will consider their application if the person you chose does not fulfill an obligation (security deposit, first month’s rent, pet fees, etc.).

Your goal is to keep them in the loop, and also have a fallback tenant if you need one.

If the first person doesn’t accept, for whatever reason, you simply move down the list.

But don’t be grumpy about it.  Be nice, thank them for taking their time to fill out the application.

You’re happy because you have other qualified tenants on your list. . . . So just move on.


What to Do After Your Rental Property Offer is Accepted


After your offer is accepted, the next step is to move on to the next step of acquiring all the preleasing fees, and onboarding your tenant.

We will cover this process in more detail later, but it should be as thorough as your tenant screening process.

Your onboarding process should be one of the hallmarks in setting you, and your tenant, up for a healthy productive business relationship.

You can sign up to be notified about our Tenant Onboarding Process by filling out the form below.


Wrapping Up How to Screen a Tenant


We know this is a lot to digest.  If this is your first (or tenth) time screening a tenant for your property it can be a bit overwhelming.

Don’t let it be.

You can download our checklist at the link below.

Also, if you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to reach out.  We are here to help.


The Team at Linchpin Property Management


By the way.  Share if you think it’s relevant.  Social networking benefits us all.  Sharing helps out us small property management companies grow big and strong.  Kind of like sharing your last bite of your meal with your kids.


P.S. We love to network.  Send us a message, give us a call ,or stop on by if you are in the Fayetteville area.

The coffee is on us.


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The Pain in The Butt Disclaimer:

As always, information on this website is not intended to constitute legal advice, or the retention of our property management services, and is for general information purposes only.

Read our full disclaimer here: Legal Disclaimer