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Property Management Blog

A Landlord's Guide to the Tenant Screening Process

Chris Barber - Wednesday, December 1, 2021
Property Management Blog

One of the many responsibilities that new landlords don't consider when they start investing in property is tenant screening. 

If you're lucky, you'll find your perfect tenant right away. 

In the real world, however, it's not so easy. When many landlords have a large number of tenants competing for each rental unit, there are sure to be a few that aren't as reliable as others.

We're here to help. Read on to learn all about the tenant screening process so you can find the best tenants.

Pre-Screening Tenants: Why Bother? 

Because the tenant screening process can be so time-consuming, pre-screening is a great way to save time and effort.

The first part of pre-screening is simple. It's already present in your rental listing if you set it up the right way. By making a list of requirements that fit your minimum criteria, you'll be able to ward off tenants that won't be a good fit.

For example, application fees, income requirements, and a notice of a background check or credit check are often enough to send away tenants that won't fit those criteria. 

The Application and More

Once tenants believe that you'll be a good fit for your rental, they'll spend their money on applications. On those applications, you want to include things like:

  • Contact information
  • Eviction and rental history
  • Employment, income, or other ability to pay
  • Pets
  • Smoking
  • Whether they've had a felony

Keep in mind that there are fair housing laws (more on that later) as well as local regulations that will determine whether or not you're able to reject potential tenants based on their answers to several of these questions. 

Verifying and Evaluating Information

Once you have the application, you can start verifying and evaluating the information. 

It's easy to run a credit check and check for employment. Have tenants include proof of income via a pay stub or bank statement to make sure that they'll have no problem paying rent. 

If your potential tenant has an eviction in their history, ask them why. It's possible that it was the fault of the landlord, or that it was so far in the past that it's no longer relevant. 

If they have no rental history, some landlords see this as a red flag. In reality, it's more than likely that the tenant had stable housing in the past, or that they are young and new to living on their own. 

Basic Fair Housing Guidelines 

Make sure that your screening and decision-making process doesn't break any equal housing rules. Rules vary by the area, but protected classes include (among others):

  • Family status (meaning that you can not reject children)
  • Sex or gender
  • Disabilities
  • Race
  • Religion
  • Nationality

Based on state regulations, you may also be limited when it comes to things like:

  • Low-income housing
  • Marital status
  • Criminal history
  • Age

Never start screening tenants before you have a firm grasp on fair housing requirements. 

Tenant Screening: Are You Prepared?

Tenant screening is more complicated than it looks on the surface. You need to make sure that you abide by equal housing regulations, that you know the right things to ask, and that you're adept at verifying information and making conscious decisions based on your own evaluation and critical thinking. 

If it sounds like a lot of work to find tenants, why not hire a property management company to help? At Invest West Management, we aim to help property investors in Vancouver, WA, make the tenant screening process (and more) a breeze. 

Contact us to learn what we can do for you today.

Invest West Management, LLC | 12503 SE Mill Plain Blvd. Suite 260 | Vancouver, WA 98684
Vancouver: (360) 254-5700 | Portland: (503) 221-0924

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