Landlords have to be smart about accepting new tenants. The screening process is a vital, as it keeps your property well maintained and your other tenants happy. However, it's sometimes not feasible to meet with an applicant in person, whether you manage your properties from afar or if the tenant is applying from a distance. Despite this distance, there are still numerous ways to properly screen remote candidates, through video conferencing services like Skype.

Remote Pre-Screening
First of all, if you can't meet with the applicant immediately, ask some pre-screening questions over the phone in to determine if they are worth pursuing via Skype meetings. Generally you can get all of this out of the way in a few minutes when first meeting an applicant but pre-screening applicants from afar becomes more important to make sure they have real potential. There are a number of things to watch out for when you are first interacting with an applicant that can help you make better decisions.

  • Why are you moving? This will bring up any red flags like evictions or bad relationships with their current landlord.
  • When do you need to move? If the answer is in less than 30 days this is a red flag, as it is clear they haven’t planned well and are in a pinch. However, tenants who are looking months in advance might not be a solid choice either because they are probably not serious about signing on a place just yet.
  • What is your income? The tenant should make two to three times the monthly rental amount.
  • Can you provide references? If an applicant can provide references from a former landlord or employer, they are more likely to be a good bet.

Background Check
Now that you’ve weeded out the unlikely options, you can still perform all the necessary background checks on a tenant even without meeting him or her. This includes verifying the following:

  • Name
  • Employer
  • Income
  • Credit History
  • Credit Score
  • Past Evictions
  • Bankruptcies

Make sure that you're not discriminating during this pre-screening. This means that you are taking this information into consideration while still being open to the potential of renting to tenants who have had past evictions, bankruptcies, etc. These marks on their record don't mean that they won't be good tenants in the future. Feel free to ask them about any particulars, such as bad relationships with past landlords - it's possible that the landlord has a history of alienating tenants or some other scenario.

Additional Remote Screening Tactics
At this stage, you are down to the applicants that are probably the most serious and the most viable options. But there are additional steps you can take because you’re not able to meet them to show them the apartment.

  • Arrange a showing with someone they know. A person’s friends and acquaintances can often be a good judge of their character so if they are able to send someone to meet you and check out the apartment for them, it could be helpful for both of you.
  • Set up a Skype meeting. Skype meetings are a great way to meet someone virtually and get a sense of who they are and what kind of tenant they will be. It’s also a great way to give them a virtual tour of the property to make sure that they will be happy with it.
  • Check out their social media profiles. Don’t be afraid to ask for their social media accounts – that way you can verify pictures to make sure the person you’re Skyping with is the same one whose financial information and background you’re checking. If they are a reputable character, they shouldn’t mind sharing this information with you.

If you have any doubts about a potential tenant, you should go with your gut instincts and keep looking for someone trustworthy. But these days, it is possible to get a pretty accurate sense of an applicant's character and ability to pay without meeting them in person. If you take the right precautions, you might end up with a tenant that proves to be trustworthy and reliable for years to come.

POSTED August 17 2015 1:53 PM

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