Renting a home or apartment to a tenant might seem as easy as signing a lease and collecting a security deposit, but there is a lot more involved. Renting your property to the wrong tenants can lead to a costly and frustrating eviction process if they stop paying rent, and you could incur expensive damages to your property if the tenants do not take care of it. A thorough tenant screening is important and should include a rental history with contact information for current and former landlords.
Ask potential tenants to fill out a rental application. You can get a template from a property manager, real estate agent or online. Make sure the application is specific to your state because each state has different landlord and tenant regulations. Include a section on the application that asks for a rental history. You should ask for former addresses, the names and contact information for previous landlords or property managers, how much rent was paid in previous and current rental agreements as well as the length of each tenancy.
Request permission to run a credit and background check. This authorizes you to verify the tenant's rental history and check for evictions. Some applications include this on the form. If yours does not, have the applicant sign a separate form granting permission.
Call the current landlord and verify that he or she owns or manages the property listed by the applicant. Ask if the tenant paid rent on time, verify the amount of rent and the length of tenancy and ask if there were any problems or complaints from neighbors. Verify the identity of the person you spoke to. Your municipal or county tax office will have records on who owns property. A suspicious tenant may give you the name and phone number of a friend and claim that person is a current landlord.
Talk to the previous landlord as well as the current landlord. Some landlords will say whatever is necessary to get rid of a problem tenant as soon as possible. Ask the same questions of the previous landlord that you asked the current one. Additionally, find out if the property was left clean and whether the security deposit was returned to the tenant.
Run a background and criminal check on a potential tenant, using a background check company or your local police department. Look for any domestic issues or police activity at previous rental homes.
Check for evictions. These may not show up on a credit report, but public records will show if a tenant was evicted or sued for unpaid rent.
Remember that a rental history is only one part of your screening process. You should also check credit and employment information as well.
Use a third party to really check out a potential renter. You can hire a property manager, an independent investigator or the resources of an association such as the National Association of Independent Landlords (NAIL) to really comb through a tenant's rental history.
- MoneyCrashers.com: How to Screen Potential Tenants
- MSN.com: How Smart Landlords Handle Rentals
- Graff Realty: Tenant Screening
- Joint Center for Housing Studies at Harvard University. "America's Rental Housing 2020," Page 9. Accessed March 20, 2020.
- Nolo. "State Laws on Landlord's Access to Rental Property." Accessed March 20, 2020.
- Nolo. "How Evictions Work: Rules for Landlords and Property Managers." Accessed March 20, 2020.
- U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. "Housing Discrimination Under the Fair Housing Act." Accessed March 20, 2020.
- Remember that a rental history is only one part of your screening process. You should also check credit and employment information as well.
- Use a third party to really check out a potential renter. You can hire a property manager, an independent investigator or the resources of an association such as the National Association of Independent Landlords (NAIL) to really comb through a tenant's rental history.
Cari Oleskewicz is a writer and blogger who has contributed to online and print publications including "The Washington Post," "Italian Cooking and Living," "Sasee Magazine" and Pork and Gin. She is based in Tampa, Florida and holds a Bachelor of Arts in communications and journalism from Marist College.