The pressure to fill vacancies quickly conflicts with the need to find quality tenants who pay on time and take care of the property. Failure to meet one or both requirements can lead to costly problems like lost rent or property destruction.
Consider adding the following ideas and resources to your screening process to identify your ideal tenants.
Define Your ‘Ideal Tenant’
Whether you’ve been a landlord for years or have recently started managing a property, keep an objective list of criteria for your ideal tenant, and use it as a guide for making decisions. Common criteria for desirable tenants include the following:
- Timely rent and loan payments
- Steady income
- No previous evictions
- No criminal record
- Ability to provide a security deposit
- Prompt notification of maintenance issues
- Compliance with lease terms
Double-check that your “ideal tenant’ criteria list doesn’t violate the federal Fair Housing Act or New York City’s Human Rights Law. Both laws prohibit making leasing decisions based on race, color, religion, sex (including gender identity and sexual orientation), disability, family status, and national origin, but the Human Rights Law goes into more detail about additional protected classes.
Ask Good Pre-Screening Questions
Asking the right questions before a potential tenant fills out an application can save you both time and money. RentPrep has an excellent list of questions you can ask potential tenants that comply with the Human Rights Law or Fair Housing Act. While you can add your own questions, you’ll want to ensure that they don’t discriminate against prospective renters.
Collect the Right Background Information
Applicants who pass the pre-screening questions should complete the formal application. This document should request the information you’ll need to eliminate unqualified applicants quickly, respectfully, and legally after the screening process (see next step).
At a minimum, your application should fill in these important blanks:
- Name, current address, phone number, and DOB
- Social Security Number
- Driver’s license number
- Monthly income (including additional income sources) and current employer
- Reason for leaving current address
- Information on pet ownership
- Criminal background
- Signature and wording that authorizes you to run a background check, credit report, and landlord and employer references
- Initials or signature that acknowledges an application fee
Screen for Credit, Criminal Background, and Convictions
Consider using a tool to screen applicants that will help you find your ideal tenants and reject unqualified tenants more efficiently while complying with the Fair Credit Reporting Act.
TransUnion, RentPrep, LeaseRunner, and the American Apartment Owners Association offer budget-friendly tools that make it easier to find ideal tenants. These tools conduct credit, criminal background and conviction checks, all at once.
Earlier work spent creating an objective list of criteria for your ideal tenant will help you comply with the Fair Credit Reporting Act, which requires landlords to provide specific reasons for rejecting a potential tenant. “Unverifiable employment,” for instance, would be a legal reason for rejecting a rental application.
Retain Ideal Tenants by Being an Ideal Landlord
Once you’ve found a tenant that meets your criteria, you can increase the chance they’ll renew their lease by keeping the property well-maintained, responding promptly to maintenance requests, and listening to feedback.
Good tenants are looking for a place that feels like home and a landlord who’s responsive. Providing both will qualify you as an ideal landlord to great tenants.