Surprisingly, many landlords will believe what a potential tenant claims instead of following through with proper verification.  Unfortunately there are many individuals that will lie about their income and past resident history just to move in. Luckily, there are many tips to assist landlords with determining when and how to screen potential tenants so they are able to uncover fraudulent claims.

Screening Process

There are five simple steps to screening potential tenants:

  1. Initial contact
  2. Showing the apartment
  3. Application process
  4. Approval process
  5. Lease signing

Step One: Initial Contact

From the moment the landlord and tenant are in contact with one another, the screening process has begun. This also holds true to real estate agents and property managers. The initial contact is typically by telephone or email depending on how the listing was acquired. Therefore, it is critical to ask the best qualifying questions to determine if this potential tenant is a good candidate for the residence. It is important to advise the applicant upfront of the rent and security deposit conditions as well as additional important details with regard to the rental.

Preparing a list of questions to ask the candidate and having it handy prior to the initial contact interview is highly beneficial. The card should contain the applicant’s name, phone number, reason for moving, rental term, occupancy date, pets, credit, smoking and previous references.

Step Two: Showing the Apartment

Assuming the potential tenant was qualified after the first step, it is time to show them the property. During the showing, there are telltale signs of a potentially irresponsible tenant. For instance, is their appearance clean and did they try to make a good first impression? Also, do they drive a nice car? Is it clean? Additionally, are they behaving respectfully and appropriately? Did they wipe their feet when walking into the residence? Furthermore, are they brining up legitimate concerns about the property? Finally, can they make an immediate decision about the rental? Although individuals cannot be fully judged based on their car, attitude, attention to the property and current appearance, it should all be noted.

Step Three: Application Process

The next step is to provide the tenant with a quality application rental. Inform them that their application will be considered along with other potential tenants and they will be notified once a decision has been made. Further advise them that it is critical for the applicant to thoroughly complete the application for their best chances. From the landlord’s end, make sure to review and verify the application and search for inconsistencies as well as red flags.

Step Four: Approval Process

Although the approval process is the most fun step, it is important to continue to screen the applicant even while preparing them for the next step. Adding little comments like congratulating them on being approved makes creates a positive relationship. Also, if any special concessions were made for them (overlooking minor credit issues), let them know. To begin the approval process, set the time, date and location for them to sign the lease and instruct them to bring the money, identification and payment preference.

Step Five: Lease Signing

The final step in the screening process is the lease signing. During this phase, read the entire lease with the tenant as they are signing it. This is the landlord-tenant agreement so the landlord is also responsible if there are any inconsistencies. Since this is the final stage of screening, landlords still have the opportunity to pull out of the deal. Therefore, as the lease is being read, note if the tenant is arguing every point.