Pre-screening potential tenants can save you time, money and headaches. While many landlords opt for face-to-face meetings as their primary screening tool, it's simply not the best way to determine a good candidate. You may be a good judge of character, but character is one consideration among many when it comes to finding reliable and responsible tenants. Follow these critical tips to make sure you get a complete picture of each candidate.
1. Interview Questions
Conducting an interview is a great chance to gain insight into the applicant's character and personality. When meeting a candidate for the first time, ask them why they are moving, where they lived last, if they have good references, a stable job and if they consent to a background check. If the applicant hesitates or refuses to answer, this experience should raise a red flag. Likewise, if the applicant immediately starts to explain bumps in his life or run-ins with law enforcement, you will know that they carry a risk of making trouble in the future.
Even if the candidate provided all the 'right' answers, you will still want them to fill out a rental application. Think of the application as a written record of the claims they've made about their eligibility. Look for inconsistencies on the application, like gaps between employment or resident addresses. If you see gaps, ask the applicant to explain. Also, make sure that the applicant has provided working phone numbers and verifiable addresses.
3. Background Check
A background check verifies the applicant's past addresses and how long the applicant lived in each location. In this stage, you can use the background check to confirm details they expressed in the interview or application. It will also cover the applicant's job history and criminal activity. A background check that reveals a history of domestic violence, substance abuse or felonies are all serious issues that should raise red flags.
4. Credit Check
Everyone suffers hardships at some point in their life. Your applicant might not have an ideal credit score. However, it's important to check the would-be tenant's credit as it gives you an idea of their history of paying off debt. It will also show if applicants are suffering from recent financial hardships that might make it difficult for them to pay rent.
Never hesitate to ask a potential tenant for personal, rental, and work references. Once you get their contact information, call and verify details your applicant relayed in the application and interview phase. Not only will you be able to learn whether your applicant is fibbing, you'll gain insight into the would-be tenant's relations with others. Calling all references might take a bit of time, but it will help you gauge the applicant's character and rental history.
Validating an applicant's income helps you understand the tenant's ability to pay rent. A tenant might have perfect credit, a clean background, and a good rental history, but if they're trying to live beyond their means it could affect your monthly payments. Ask applicants to provide pay stubs to validate their monthly income. Ideally, collect three months of pay stubs to show that they reliably make the same income month after month.
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