What you’re looking for is going to depend on where you’re at in the tenant screening process. This guide is designed to allow you to skip ahead to where you are in the process of filling your vacant rental. If you’re searching for tenant screening services, we’d recommend checking out our packages & pricing page.

If you’ve never looked at a tenant screening report and you’re unsure of what a rental background check consists of, we’d recommend checking out this resource. Finally, if you’re brand new to being a landlord or screening tenants, we’d suggest you work your way through this entire guide.

Tables Of Contents For Tenant Screening

  1.   Creating a tenant screening checklist
  2.   Understanding tenant screening laws
  3.   Forming tenant screening criteria
  4.   Advertising your rental
  5.   Questions to ask potential renters
  6.   Showing your rental property
  7.   Free rental application/tenant screening form
  8.   What does a rental background check consist of?

What Is Tenant Screening?

Tenant screening is a repeatable process for finding the best renter for your rental. It starts with generating your screening criteria and then generating interest in your rental. Then, you can begin systematically weeding out unqualified renters until you find the very best fit for your property. Not everyone has a tenant screening process in place. Our comic strip below shows the wide disparity between two landlords and their approach to tenant screening.

If we could sum up tenant screening with one quote, it would be this… “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” Tenant screening is not about immediate gratification, and that’s why some landlords have a tough time mastering it. Think of tenant screening as maintaining a vehicle.

If you get regular maintenance and oil changes you’re likely to pay less in the long run with that vehicle. If you take the time to do tenant screening the right way, you’re going to have fewer frustrations and headaches in the long run.

How To Create A Tenant Screening Process

As a landlord, how thorough the tenant screening process is for your properties is really up to you. In this guide, we’ll go over the best practices we’ve found for finding the right tenants at the right time, including how to properly screen tenants so you can sleep more easily at night. The more emphasis you place on screening tenants, the smoother your rental management will be.

Understand Renter Screening & Expectations

The Venn diagram below is a simplification of the tenant screening process that acts as an excellent visual of what this course will cover. We will get to this process once we cover the overall checklist and touch upon tenant screening laws. Like most things, the more you run through this process, the easier it gets.

How To Use RentPrep For Tenant Screening

Simply put, we are a national tenant screening service located in Lancaster, NY. We’ve been in business since 2007 and have serviced over 90,000 clients nationwide. Our goal is to educate and empower landlords and property managers to help protect their investments. Here’s an overview video about RentPrep and what we do.

Join The Largest Landlord Facebook Group

In our RentPrep For Landlords Facebook Group [join here], we asked, “how do you screen tenants?”

Kim Meredith-Hampton manages over 1,000 rentals in Central Florida and is the current President of the Florida Chapter of the National Association of Residential Property Managers (NARPM). Here’s the response from the client: “It’s like CSI, sometimes you need to dig deep to get the real answers. Always a good idea to have a third party do the the verifications to avoid problems with staff over inflating results.”

Dan Lane is the host of the Rental Income Podcast and appeared on episode 153 of the RentPrep for Landlords podcast. The client’s response, “Have written screening criteria and stick with it. Don’t bend the rules, even if it means you are going to have the property sit vacant a little longer.”

Download a tenant screening criteria template.

Andrew Schultz is the Podcast Host of RentPrep For Landlords and brings up a good point on verification calls. Asking open-ended questions is a good way to catch applicants who provide fake information on their applications. Schultz says,

“Check the address listed on the application and see who owns it. If that name doesn’t match the name they give for the landlord, you may have a fake landlord reference. When you call the landlord to verify, try to misstate information such as the rental amount and see if the landlord corrects you. If they don’t correct you, they likely are just agreeing with what you are saying and may be a fake landlord. if they do correct you, that could be an indicator that you are speaking to the actual landlord.”

You can Google “(your county) property records” to see if there is an online database of property records. Some counties will not charge you to access it and you can look up the records of the current and previous landlords listed on the application to see if the names match.