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Tenant Screening – 10 Steps To Get The Best Tenants

As Landlords, it’s important that we make sure the people we put in our properties are the right fit for us.

Good tenants can make our lives as property owners a total breeze.. 

Bad ones can leave a sour taste in our mouths, cost us thousands of pounds in repairs and can be a total nightmare to get rid of..

So without further ado, here’s 10 steps to help you get the best tenants.

1. Set out a tenant screening criteria

Setting out a tenant screening criterion is vital whenever you start seeking new tenants.

It’s important to know what kind of tenants you’re realistically looking for too as often, you’ll have an easier time identifying ideal tenants when the time is right.

Make sure, however, the criteria you’re setting out isn’t too strict as you’ll often miss out on good tenants by doing so.

You’re able to effectively use information like; rental history, income, references, criminal backgrounds, or lifestyles to impact your decision.

how to find tenants as a landlord

Only if you’re not using this information on a discriminatory basis.

Instead, use the above information to consider…

  • Does the tenant make enough money to meet rental costs?
  • Do they have a stable job?
  • Is the tenant friendly/approachable?
  • Have they got a history of not paying rent on time?
  • Does the tenant smoke or have pets?

Make sure you keep in mind that some countries/cities have strict guidelines surrounding criminal background checks, so it’s always worth double checking before you strike prospective tenants off.

2. Mention your tenancy requirements in the listing.

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When listing a property, it’s highly recommended that you set expectations as early as possible.

In your listing, you should outline the terms of the tenancy and what tenants are expected to comply with.

For example, you could write on the listing…

 “All applicants will be required to submit to a credit and background check.”

This also gives you the opportunity to outline any rental application requirements and the outlined fees too.

This shows transparency from an early stage and prevents you from wasting time with those who don’t fit the bill.

3. Don't be afraid to ask questions

tenant screening and how to get the best tenancy

Don’t be afraid to ask questions when it comes to considering a tenant.

That way, you’ll get a real feel as to who your tenant is.

You could ask questions like:

  • What does your current living situation look like?
  • When do you plan on moving in?
  • What’s your monthly income?
  • Do you have any current expenses or outgoings?
  • Would you consent to background/ credit checks if required?
  • Do you smoke or have pets?
  • Why are you looking to move?

At this point, if you’re happy with the answers the tenant has given you… Why not schedule a viewing so the tenant can get a feel for where they’re planning to live?

4. Mandatory rental applications

how to screen a tenant

Mandatory rental applications are a great way to get sensitive information from your tenants without coming across as intrusive.

The whole purpose of a rental application should be to collect info like:

  • Previous employment history and income.
  • At least 5 years of residence history with relevant contact information.
  • Previous evictions/bankruptcies.
  • Historical rent arrears.

Once the tenant’s completed the rental application, you should begin reaching out to previous references to verify the validity of the information the tenant has provided.

5. User property showings to explore tenants

Don’t just use property viewings to show off your property, use it to get a feel for your tenant too.

You can get a clear indicator of what kind of person your tenant is by the way they behave.

If they show up considerably late without informing you, this can be a big great red flag to most.

Pick up on other things too. Is your tenant aggressive or rude? Do they smell like cannabis? Are they interested in what you have to say?

If you get a bad gut feeling when screening tenants, you should probably listen to your instincts.

It’s your property and your livelihood after all.

6. Don't underestimate employer references

tenant employer referencing as a landlord

Most employers will be receptive to giving out a reference.

They’re also, in most cases, going to know your tenant better than anybody.

Give their employer a call with the purpose of verifying your prospective tenant’s work history.

Don’t be shy to ask what kind of person your prospective tenant is either!

This is a vital part of your screening anyway because it’ll give you an idea of your tenant’s income.

This might prevent potential arrears or problems further down the road.

7. Credit / Background checks

credit checking a tenant

A credit report will give you a thorough, in-depth analysis of your tenant’s financial history.

It’ll also indicate how financially responsible your tenant is.

Background checks will also notify you if your tenant has ever committed a crime.

If a criminal record flags up, consider the severity and the type of crime, and take this into account.

Things like arson, theft or anti-social behaviour should stick out to you like a sore thumb and help you make an informed decision.

8. Ex-Landlord Referencing

Checking in with a previous landlords can save you a world of headaches.

When checking in with a prior Landlord, you might want to find out whether the tenant…

  • Made payments on time.
  • Took good care of the property and didn’t damage it.
  • Maintained and kept the property in good standing.
  • Didn’t cause any noise complaints or disruption to other neighbours or occupiers.

We don’t recommend checking in with current landlords, as they might try and pass off a problem tenant by lying!

9. Choose carefully when screening a tenant

Don’t be afraid to turn down tenants you don’t feel are quite right.

At the end of the day, it’s your property and your livelihood at stake, and bad tenants can be a complete nightmare to get rid of.

Don’t rush to fill vacant properties either.

Make sure to accept your ideal occupant first before turning other applicants away.

This gives you room to manoeuvre if your first choice falls through.

10. Use the right tools!

Once your property is no longer vacant, managing your tenancies can be quite a pain.

Whether it boils down to juggling tasks, staying compliant or making sure rent gets paid on time, it’s worth equipping yourself with the right tools to get the job done.

We highly recommend looking at cloud-based property management software as Landlords who use them effectively get more done than their spreadsheet counterparts.

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