Real Estate

A Landlord’s Guide to the Tenant Screening Process

America runs on renting. More than 44 million households lived inside rented properties in 2019.

More and more families are renting in order to keep their housing costs down. This makes tenant screening extremely important for landlords.

How does the tenant screening process begin? How can a landlord determine who the qualified tenants are? How can a landlord create a connection with potential tenants?

Answer these questions and you can find tenants who will pay their rent on time every time. Here is your quick guide.


Pre-screening allows landlords to find the best tenants. You can pre-screen your applicants by writing a good rental listing. Be specific in what your requirements are, including whether or not you accept pets.

You can then have conversations with potential tenants. These can be as formal as you would like. Asking some basic questions can help you get a good sense of who the applicant is.

If you have a few applicants you like, show them your property. Point out the best amenities and listen to their questions about your property. Qualified tenants should do their research in advance and ask detailed questions.

Rental Applications

Rental applications help with finding tenants and making a final decision on applicants. You should review the income of every applicant. You can ask to see their pay stub or W-2 form.

You may ask questions about an applicant’s previous renting history. You can ask about whether they have ever been evicted or refused to pay rent.

But be conscientious. Many financial circumstances are out of people’s control. You should only reject someone who had money but refused to pay rent for no good reason.

Employment Checks

You can check someone’s employment history. You should ask an employer how long their employee has worked at the company and how responsible they are.

Some employers will verify dates of employment and job positions. Few will give extensive details unless the employee has been with the company for a long time.

Checks can be transactional. Feel free to offer your own employment details to your tenants to encourage them to offer their details. Be willing to learn more about being a landlord so you can create a good relationship with tenants and applicants.

Background Checks

A background check can give you information on an applicant’s criminal history and other details. You cannot deny a tenant off of their criminal record alone. But you can turn someone down if they commit crimes that would put your other tenants in harm’s way.

The Essentials of the Tenant Screening Process

Tenant screening requires a few steps. It begins with pre-screening. By specifying what your tenant requirements are, you can narrow down your applicant pool.

You can then ask questions in a phone interview. If an applicant seems credible, ask for their financial details, namely their salary.

You should then check their employment to make sure they have a good income stream. You can perform a background check, but you can only turn down tenants if they pose a danger to you.

Being a landlord requires more than tenant screening. Read about good landlord practices by following our coverage.


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