Most of your tenant problems can be eliminated in the screening process. If you’re like us, you probably find it hard to relax when you have vacancies, and getting it rented is the main task. In my opinion, this distinction will help: “getting it rented to a properly qualified tenant that will take care of your property, not be a pain in the bahookie and lastly pay every month on time.”

Below, you will find what I call the 5 Steps of Screening Tenants:

Step 1: First Contact

From the very first time you have contact with the tenant, the screening process has started. First impressions are always important. Whether you’re the landlord, real estate agent or property manager, the same still holds true.

First Contact is usually by phone. Here you can ask them very specific qualifying questions in order to decide if you should go on to step 2. Inform customers of your up-front rent and security deposit conditions and other important facts regarding the rental that may help eliminate the prospect.

We recommend you make a list or prospect card of questions to ask the potential tenant and have it handy while you conduct your first contact interview. The following 5 questions can give you great insight of whether to permit them to see the rental:

1. Where are they living at the moment? For how long?
(Making a huge change in neighborhood quality is a possible red flag. Also, only living at recent rentals for less than 1 year each, is a concern.)

2. Why are they moving?
(See if they have anything negative to say about their current landlord.)

3. Where do they work? How long have they been there? How much do they make?
(They need to make four times your monthly rent, every month. Just like their residence location, if their employment location has been for only a short time, this can also be a concern.)

4. What will we find when we run a credit check?
(Do they answer nervously? Have a delay? Compare what they say to actual results in the future. Never rent to a liar. Everyone is quite familiar with their credit report.)

5. What will we find when we run a criminal background check?
(Do they answer nervously? Have a delay? Compare what they say to actual results in the future. Never rent to a liar. Everyone is quite familiar with their credit report.)

Please understand that anyone who has a problem answering any of your questions (as long as you ask them politely) will probably not qualify for your rental. Serious customers will want to make a good impression on you and answer all questions happily and truthfully. This process can save you both a lot of time and trouble.

Step 2: Showing the Property

From landlords to real estate agents, we all have our own way of showing the rental. We all need to be aware of certain alluding signs to watch for while evaluating your prospective, new tenants.

1.Appearance – Is the prospect neat and clean? Did they intend to make a good impression? In most cases, a disheveled person keeps a disheveled lifestyle and home.

2.Car – Does the prospect have a nice, working car? Does it look clean? Although we can’t exactly judge people by their car, we should take note of it along with many other details.

3.Attitude and Manners – Does the potential renter behave in a respectable way? Do they show indications of being difficult to associate with in the near future? Did they wipe their feet off when they first stepped into the house? Did they walk into the rental while smoking? You can normally learn a lot about people even before speaking to them.

4.Criticizing the Property – Are the prospects pointing out actual concerns, or are they trying to come up with things to negotiate the price?

5.Yes or No? – Can the potential renter make a decision now or will they have to take some time to think about it? If they know now that they want your rental, did they come ready to give you a deposit and fill out an application?

Step 3: The Application Process

The first thing you need is a rental application. Let the applicant know that their application will be looked at and considered along with others and you will notify them once a decision is made. Let the applicant(s) know that it is very important to fill out all of the application as completely as possible. If you (and we highly advise you to do so) run a credit, criminal and background report on the potential renter. It is also suggested that you accept an application screening fee.

Inform the potential tenant that the application must be returned as soon as possible to avoid the risk of losing the rental to a competing potential tenant. Look over and verify the application thoroughly and look for possible inconsistencies and red flags. When you are pleased with the application, you will proceed to approving your new tenant in step 4.

Step 4: The Approval Process

This is sometimes the fun part, but keep in mind that you are still screening the applicant while preparing them for the next step. We like to congratulate the new tenant on the approval and let them know they came in first place. Also, let them know if you made adjustments such as, overlooking minor credit violations, etc.

This process is also a chance for you to make sure the applicant can and will deliver. Set the time, date and place for your lease signing. Instruct the applicant(s) to bring the proper amounts of monies, identification (if you don’t already have it), and how you prefer to be paid. (Check*, money order or cash).

Be sure to tell your new tenants that possession or keys will be given to them only after checks have cleared. We really try to stick to a money order or cash for first payment.

Step 5: The Lease Signing

It is very important that you have a quality residential lease. You would be surprised at the amount of people who would just sign a lease without reading all of it over! We believe that it is crucial to read the entire lease with the tenants at the lease signing. It is your agreement with them. Shouldn’t you both know what all is being agreed to? As you read the terms of the lease with the tenant, you will be able to conduct your 5th and final step of the screening process.

Does the tenant argue at every item? Is the late fee an issue? And so on.

Also, if you are unhappy with how the tenant responds to you or your lease, you must not rent to this person.

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