Once you have prepared your property for rent, advertised and answered a few calls, it is time to start taking applications. The key to proper screening is to verify the information is valid because it will determine which tenants qualify for your rental. To verify prospective tenant information, it is necessary to follow a few steps.
Verify identity. When meeting the applicant in person, you must require current driver's license or photo ID. Compare the name and address on the application to the ID. Inquire about any discrepancies and make note of them on the application.
Verify rental history. Always contact the current and previous landlord. Some landlords will be less than pleased to discuss a tenant either because they did not know the tenant was leaving or because they are in the process of eviction. However, many will be forthcoming and provide you with useful information. In many states you can use an online court records search. This will instantly let you know of any evictions — past or present.
Verify employment. If the applicant is currently unemployed “but looking,” assess how he will pay the rent. When verifying employment, keep in mind there are very few questions an employer can answer. Just ask if the applicant works there and for how long. Require proof of income via pay stubs or bank statements.
Verify income. In a down economy, credit scores are slightly less important but you also want to run a credit check to see where the applicant stands in terms of debt. Look for recent bankruptcies, repossessions and credit card debt. Hospital bills tend to be less important.
Check for criminal history. You can do this the same way you check rental history or you can request a county-level criminal report for a fee. Keep in mind with the county-level reports that people who move frequently may be difficult to track down as far as criminal history.
When you have decided on an applicant, require a photocopy of photo ID for your records.
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