How to Screen Potential Tenants

As a landlord, you want to find tenants that will pay the rent on time and not do damage to your property. But how can you predict if someone will be a good tenant? It’s up to you to screen each prospective tenant carefully to protect you and your property.

Rental application. The first step is to have the interested party complete a rental application. Be sure you understand what you can and can’t ask on this form. Generally, the tenant screening questions you can ask are: applicant’s name, social security number, current and previous addresses and length of time at these locations, current employer and years worked there, income sources and proof of income, vehicle information, information about the number of adults and children, pets, credit card information, emergency numbers, personal references and bank accounts. If there will be more than one person on the lease, get information about each person.

Verify the information. Once you have the information about the applicant in hand, you need to verify if it is accurate.

How do you do tenant background screening? You can verify information on the application such as calling an employer to check on work status. You are free to check anything that is in the public domain, such as criminal convictions and bankruptcies.

TransUnion’s SmartMove. If you are an independent landlord, checking backgrounds can be complicated, time consuming and expensive. One tool that can help make this process easier is TransUnion’s SmartMove. American Family has partnered with TransUnion to provide a discount to American Family landlord customers who use this service. Contact your agent to learn more.

SmartMove is a web-based solution that gives you access to the same tenant screening tools used by the largest property management group. It provides a comprehensive credit and criminal background check and custom leasing recommendations to help independent landlords make an informed decision. All you need to get started is the tenant’s email address. The applicant completes a short online form and gives consent to be screened. The screening is then completed in minutes.

Who you can rent to. In considering a tenant, understand that only someone 18 years old and older can be legally obligated to a lease, so you should require anyone younger to have an adult be responsible by signing the lease and guaranteeing the rent.

Under the Federal Equal Credit Opportunity Act as well as the Fair Housing Act you can’t discriminate against applicants on the basis of race, color, religion, national origin, sex, marital status or age, as long as the person is of legal age.

If you have any doubts about screening tenants and the rental process, you should consult with an attorney.

These tips are a great start in your journey toward becoming a confident landlord. Our landlord toolbox has even more information that can help you succeed at property rental management.


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