Every landlord has heard horror stories about tenants who have brought in bed bugs, dropped bowling balls through the floor, refused to leave the property, or some other atrocious lease violation that leaves the apartment in bad shape. These stories aren’t made up either – oftentimes you will find landlords who have had to deal with many bad situations like these and who, hopefully, have learned something from each one.
The good news is that by effectively screening potential rental applicants, you can drastically reduce the chances of renting to someone who is going to pull one of these stunts. You can easily reduce the stress and headaches that are part of a landlord’s job by learning to discern a good tenant from a bad one. And, even better, you can now do so without even meeting the tenant in person if you need to. There are some great online screening methods that allow you to conduct a full-on screening of tenants and weed out bad candidates online.
Set Your Standards
The first step in online screening is to set your standards for your new tenants. Figure out what the minimum requirements are for your renters and make sure you find ways of verifying them online. For example, most landlords will want to verify that a tenant’s monthly income is equal or greater to three times the rent per month. Tenants should also have good references and a clean background check that is void of any felony convictions.
One of the next most effective ways to weed out bad applicants is to put an efficient pre-screening process in place. You can communicate details about the property in your advertisements about the open space in order to eliminate the people who are looking for something entirely different You can also weed out early applicants who don’t get through your pre-screen by telling them about your standards upfront.
If you can’t meet an applicant in person, you can still effectively have them go through a screening process online. You can use an online business that conducts pre-screens or else come up with your own application process with must-ask questions. You should make sure to get all of their personal information such as their name, phone, address, social security number, date of birth, etc. It’s also good to get names of current and past landlords as well as their employer and job details. If you haven’t already gotten information about evictions, broken leases, and other criminal records, this is a good time to do so as well. Then make sure to get a release of information signature that allows you to do further background checking on them to make sure that you end up with a great candidate.
Once applicants have made it through the pre-screening and online applications, you may still be wary about renting to them without having met them in person. At this point, it's safe to ask for an in-person meeting or a walk-through of the apartment with the candidates that you have selected from the wider pool. Before you meet them, however, make sure that you set a time of day where you feel safe and other people will be around, you should never be alone in an apartment with strangers even when they are potential tenants. You can always arrange to have someone else accompany you to a meeting until you have gotten to know your tenants and have established a relationship with them.
The bottom line in any screening process is to make sure you get as much information as possible upfront before meeting them. This process can save you a lot of time and money, and will usually result in you renting to a reliable and responsible tenant in the long run.
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