<- Back<- Back<- Back

Avoid Bad Tenants: Screening Best Practices

Eric Donti
May 19, 2023

Property managers have a lot of work on their plates at the best of times. They must ensure people stay on top of everyday maintenance, ensure contracted services are performed, and even negotiate occasional services. For example, many properties need periodic waterproofing. It’s on you to deal with hiring a waterproofing professional. Of course, a more challenging and important task for any property manager is screening to avoid bad tenants. If you’re unhappy with your current screening process, keep reading for some key tenant screening tips for property managers.

Develop Specific Criteria

Developing specific criteria is one of the most important tenant screening tips for property managers. Granted, on the one hand, you are specifically limited by the law about some criteria. For example, you cannot deny an application to someone in a protected class simply because they are a member of that protected class.

On the other hand, you often have a lot of latitude in setting other criteria for accepting or denying an application. You can often set a minimum credit score or minimum income threshold for approving a tenant.

Once you determine the criteria you want to use, write them down and make them an official part of your selection process.

Verify Their Income Source

It may sound a little paranoid, but it’s always a good idea to make sure that someone actually makes the amount they say they make. Of course, in this age of easy digital document creation, that’s often harder to do than it sounds. There are entire websites out there that will let you create a pay stub from whole cloth.

Beyond that, plenty of people out there get in non-traditional ways. Freelancers, for example, often get paid in cash or as contractors, not employees. They don’t get traditional pay stubs, so they must create them for themselves.

While you should still ask for pay stubs, you should also ask for three months of bank statements as well to verify that their total income meets your requirements.

Take a Peek at Their Social Media Profiles

Social media profiles are often a wellspring of freely offered information. People often talk directly about where they work, where they live or lived, and their social affiliations. Most of the time, you’ll discover that the information aligns neatly with whatever they put on the application.

Every once in a while, you’ll discover that the information doesn’t line up at all or that people have associations with known hate groups. Finding that out in advance can save you a lot of trouble down the road.

Talk to More than One Prior Landlord

To put it bluntly, the current landlord of a bad tenant has a lot of motivation to make it easy for that tenant to leave. In other words, they’ll give that tenant a great reference if they think it means that tenant will become someone else’s headache.

Talk to at least one landlord before that. You're on safe ground if they also give a good reference. If you get a completely different story about the kind of tenant you’d be dealing with, you at least know to stay on guard.

Do Background Checks

It’s standard operating procedure for property managers to run background checks on new applicants, but it can fall through the cracks if things get busy. Ensure you always run them before you ever offer someone a lease. Just as importantly, make sure that you look closely at any background check that turns up with red flags.

Many people share the same names in a country as big as America. It doesn’t happen all the time, but sometimes a background check comes up with the wrong person attached. The last thing you want to do is deny someone’s application because you got the wrong information on the background check.

Don’t Write On the Application

It’s perfectly normal to make a few notes while you’re talking with an applicant. Maybe they said something interesting or mentioned something you want to follow up on. The point is, none of that belongs on the actual application.

The only extra information that should ever go on an application is additional information that is purely relevant to the application. For example, if you have a minimum income threshold, you might write their verified income amount on the application.

If you have a minimum credit score requirement, you may also write down their credit score and whether or not it meets the threshold. Anything other than that, particularly about them personally or their lifestyle, can become a potentially thorny legal issue down the road.

Ask Pertinent Questions

While there are many things you can’t or shouldn’t ask potential tenants, there are many things you can and should ask. Here are a few things you can throw out as potential screening questions.

Do you smoke? Many rental properties have no smoking rules. While it’s not an automatic disqualification, people can smoke outside. It’s something you’ll need to drive home.

Do you currently rent? People who currently rent are often familiar with the kinds of rules they’ll face.

Do you have any pets? Again, many rental properties have rules regarding pets. That question lets you explain those rules for pet-owning potential tenants.

Have you ever had an eviction? This is a telltale question. Depending on the age of the applicant, an eviction might have happened decades in the past. Still, it’s good to know.

Tenant Screening and You

Getting the most out of these tenant screening tips for property managers is mostly about staying organized. You need your process organized. Ideally, you’ll also have your process documented well. The organization is what lets you stay on top of tenant screenings and all of those other tasks you must do. If the deck for the pool on your property is about due for fresh waterproofing, though, head over here for pool deck coating contractors near me.