Tips on Screening Tenants!

By admin

I thought I would post some tips on how to screen tenants.  Over the years I have found many landlords that skip some very important steps when screening tenants, so I’m posting some tips that have helped me. 

Without fail it seems that every-time I have a vacancy I will always find someone that offers me up front cash and is anxious to rent the unit quickly.  Yes, I’ve fallen for this trick a couple of times… You know how it is, sometimes when it’s slow you just want to fill the vacancy quickly so you take the bait. 

Speaking from experience, never ever place yourself in this type of a situation.  Ask yourself the following questions:
          1.  Why is the tenant so anxious to move?
               Most likely this is a sign of a tenant that is being evicted or forced to move.  
               You will have to be careful with judgement on this, even if the tenant gives you
                a valid reason for need to move in so quickly it may be a trick to play on your
                emotions.  Can you verify their story?
          2.  Did the tenant have any questions about the unit or features?
               Everyone should have some questions about the rental before renting.  If the 
               seems like they are completely happy with the rental, especially without a good 
               walk-through; it probably means that they don’t plan on staying for very long.  
               Are they planning on getting evicted within a couple of months?
          3.  Does it sound too good to be true?
               Most people don’t rush into renting a place unless their is a hidden reason such as
               eviction history, drug problems, etc.  Is the renter acting way off character, do 
               their actions match up with the obligations required? 

Gut feelings and first impressions are usually the worst form of screening.  Some of my most costly mistakes have been based off of renting to someone that I “felt” good about.  I know the importance of saving money, and because of that I have found myself skipping over the background check in order to save a little money.  I learned the hard way that this is one of the poorest decisions to be made as a landlord.  Now I ask myself the following before renting to someone:
         1.  How much will it cost me to replace flooring, fixtures, appliances?
              Bad tenants can cause costly repairs.  Once after remodelling a unit I renting to
              someone based on a gut feeling…  3 months later the unit was completely trashed
              costing more than $5,000 in repairs.  Although the renter seemed like the 
              perfect renter, they actually had a history of drug problems.  Had I spent the $20
              on a background check I would’ve found their history and would’ve never rented 
              to them.
         2.  How much will it cost me if I have to evict the tenant?
              If I have to evict the tenant, how much money will I lose in the court process and 
              with lost rent?  
         3.  How long will it take me to fill the vacancy again? 
              This question is two-fold, how long will it take to get the rental ready to rent, and
              how long will it take me to find a renter?  The quickest I’ve ever seen a rental 
              turn from vacancy to rented was one week, and that’s very rare.  Even if you can
              rent out your unit in one week you will still be losing 7 days of rent, which could    
              be several hundred dollars.
          4. How much time and headache can this cause me?
              I already have enough stress in my life, so I don’t need to cause any more
              headaches.  And I’m sure all of us can use all the time we have on other things.
In short, you should never ever consider not screening a tenant before renting to them.  Their is way too much to risk.  By far the smartest decision you can make as a landlord is to spend money on the screening process.  The old saying of stepping over a dollar to pick up a nickle holds so true to the screening process.  Don’t risk saving a few dollars when you have thousands at risk. 

Edited on: Friday, March 21st, 2008 9:43 am

2 Responses to “Tips on Screening Tenants!”

My response: (We welcome stories, examples, explanations, answers and a touch of your personality)


March 21st, 2008 9:52 am

My comments…


January 24th, 2011 5:41 am

Equal consideration should be given for the landlord when looking at a rental. Our landlord admitted in writing they’re in financial trouble. If they were to default, the bank could throw us out.

Do a credit check on you perspective landlord too. Wish I had.


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