Whiteboard Wednesday #8 — 5 Tips To Screen Tenants
“There’s no such thing as a bad tenant, there’s just a lazy landlord.” It’s an adage for landlords to live by, if not to take without a grain of salt at times. Essentially, the statement means this: if a landlord does a thorough job of screening his or her tenants up front, he or she will never have a bad tenant. A landlord who doesn’t put in the time and effort to thoroughly screen, however, is a lazy landlord who may wind up with a less-than-perfect tenant.
Of course, due diligence can be easier said than done. By following a few tips for vetting potential tenants, however, landlords can set themselves – and their tenants – up for success:
- Ensure that a tenant’s monthly income is at least three times the rent. Maintaining a healthy ratio of housing costs to income will help to prevent tenants from getting behind on rent.
- Always run criminal and credit checks. Credit need not be a hard and fast deciding factor; it can be affected by things outside of the tenant’s control – medical bills, for example – or that don’t reflect negatively upon them – student loans. Make a good judgment call rather than setting hard and fast rules. Criminal background checks can also be case-by-case – there are certain things that may be disqualifying, but it can also be important to consider circumstances, age of conviction, and so on.
- Verify proof of employment. Ask potential tenants for paystubs, letters of recommendation from their employers, and so on – don’t just take their word for it, get written proof of steady employment and add it to your file.
- Talk to previous landlords. Ask a potential tenant for contact information for their former landlords, and have a conversation with them – ask why the tenant left, if they were respectful of the property, whether the security deposit was returned, and so forth.
- Take a look at their car. You can often judge how good a tenant will be by their car. A clean, well-maintained car is often indicative of a tenant who will take good care of their living space as well.
With these tips in mind, a diligent landlord can ensure that they’ll never wind up with a bad tenant!