Tenant Screening 

Copyright 2021 FRED GRUNEWALD

Landlords are looking for tenants who will be able to pay rent consistently, who will treat their units with care, and who will be trouble-free neighbors.

From the very first contact with a potential tenant, the screening process has begun. 

First Contact is ether by telephone or email, so you need to ask the right qualifying questions as you begin the interview process.

Advise customers of your rent and security deposit requirements and other important facts regarding the rental that may help disqualify the prospect.

I suggest you make a list or prospect card of questions to ask and have it handy while you conduct your first contact interview. Depending on your rules (pets, smoking, number of occupants etc) you will have different interview questions.

Here are a few of my interview questions I have when I speak with them on the phone. I'm very direct and don't have time to waste. If I'm uncomfortable with their communication skills and can't answer questions direct, it's a red flag for me. Here are a few of my questions:

When do you need to move?

Why are you moving?

How many in your family...adults, kids, roommates?

Do you have pets?

Any smokers?

Please note that anyone who has a problem answering your questions (as long as you ask them politely), probably will not qualify for your rental. Serious customers want to make a good impression on you and should be happy to answer your questions. This process can save you a lot of time and trouble.

Showing the Property

Landlords all have their own style in showing the rental. I think we all need to be aware of certain telltale signs to watch for while evaluating your prospective new tenants.

Appearance. Is the prospect neat and clean? Did he or she make an attempt to make a good impression? In most cases, an unkempt person keeps an unkempt lifestyle and home.
Car. Does the prospect have a nice car? Is it clean? Although we can't judge people by their car, we should take note of it along with other details.
Attitude & Manners. Does this prospect behave respectfully? Does he or she show indications of being difficult to deal with in the future? Did the prospect wipe his or her feet when stepping into the house?  You can learn a lot about people even before speaking to them. Sometimes it helps to pay attention to details.

Criticizing the property. Are the prospects pointing out legitimate concerns, or are they trying to come up with items to negotiate price?

Can the prospect make the decision now or will they have to think about it? If they know now that they want your rental, did the prospect come ready to give you a deposit and fill out an application? Too eager is also a red flag for me. 

The Application Process

The first thing you need is a quality rental application. Let the applicant know that his or her application will be considered along with others, and you will notify the applicant once a decision is made. Advise the applicants that it's very important to fill out the application as completely as possible. If you (and I recommend you do) run a credit report on the applicant, be sure to collect a screening fee. This simple process will screen out many people on its own. 

A good rule of thumb is checking that they make 3 times the rent each month.  Ask for references, and listen for current/past landlords’ feedback regarding tenant cleanliness, prompt payments, and being sorry to see them leave.

Inform your prospective tenant that the application must be returned as soon as possible to avoid the risk of losing the rental to a competing prospect.

Review and verify the application thoroughly and look for inconsistencies and "red flags". When you are satisfied, you will proceed to approving your new tenant.

The Approval Process

This is usually a fun part, but keep in mind that you are still screening the applicant while preparing him or her for the next step. I like to congratulate the applicant on being approved and let them know they came in 1st place. Also, let them know if you made any special concessions just for them, such as overlooking minor credit infractions, etc.

This process is also an opportunity for you to make sure the applicant can and will deliver. Set the time, date and place for your lease signing. Instruct the applicant(s) to bring the proper amounts of monies, identification (if you don't already have it), and how you prefer to be paid. (check, money transfer or cash)

I will email a copy of the lease and my rules for their review so that everything is understood when we meet again for the signing and the walk-through for the "move-in" condition checklist.

* Be sure to tell your new tenants that possession or keys will be given only after checks have cleared.

The Lease Signing

It is very important that you have a quality residential lease and I believe it's crucial to read the entire lease with the tenants at a lease signing. It's your agreement with them. I also do a complete walk-through with them and have them sign a property condition checklist and inform them I have photos of "before" and we will be doing another walk-through when they vacate, including "after" photos. 


Your professionalism will set the tone of your future interaction with your new tenants. If you gain their respect...they will treat you accordingly- Fred