Tenant Screening Tips

There’s an old rule of thumb out there when dealing with landlord-tenant interactions. That rule is the 80/20 rule and many of you out there are reading this nodding. You know what this means: it means that only about 20% of your tenants will give you about 80% of the hassles. Everyone else is awesome, but there’s always that small group that can really make everything a pain.

If you’ve been in property management a while, you probably know that effective screening can certainly help with this problem. The reason this is important is all that time you spend dealing with the Bad Tenant is time wasted. Time that could be making improvements to the property, getting things going smoother, organizing your rental billing, and basically, just spending time doing anything but dealing with the headaches that can come when you don’t screen effectively. Communication is always the answer, but there are other things that can make this so much easier.


To screen tenants effectively, begin before you meet with them. Before you show a property, ask key questions to guage whether or not the potential tenant is a good match. For instance, if you have a no pets policy: don’t wait to find out after you’ve shown the place that they have dogs. Put together a list of the rules or policies, and go from there to create a pre-screening questionnaire. This will help you save a lot of time in the screening process.

Reference Checks

After the application is in, then it comes time for your reference checks. Now, the idea here is to make sure that the person applying has decent rental history and that the employment history matches up with what they’ve told you. In spite of advice otherwise, the truth is, rental history is more important. This tells you how they are as a tenant and that’s really the biggest issue. Contact at least the two last landlords, not just the last one. Think about the times you’ve had one of those 20%er tenants. How much did you want to get them out of your property? Exactly. While many will be honest about the tenant, you’ll have some who just want them gone. Talk to someone who doesn’t have a horse in the race anymore. Another good idea is to meet them in person. While no, you cannot always judge a book by their cover, taking the time to show them the place and talking to them while you do can help you tell a lot about an applicant.

Seems legit...
Seems legit, right?

Find sticky renters

While it’s probably tempting to rent to someone who answers the question of “Why do you want to rent here?” with “It’s a nice place” or “Price”, that’s not a great idea. Always look for someone who has good reason to stick around. Those are the ones who will be more likely to take care of the property but also, renew the lease. If your property is high turnover, you not only have to go through the screening process over and over, but clean up and dealing with any other issues that presents. So look for someone who likes the area, wants their kids to go to the school nearby, or any other factors that indicate long term. In this day and age- that credit score could mean a lot of things, but “This place is cheap” almost always means, “I’ll be moving just as soon as I find something better.”

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Kurt Kroeck

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By Kurt Kroeck

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