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How to Find a Reliable Tenant?

Finding a reliable tenant is essential to owning and running a successful rental property. If you’re the kind of landlord that does not want to hire a real estate agent or a property management company to take care of things. Here are the steps to help you find a good tenant:

  1. Advertising: Start by advertising your rental property through various channels such as online platforms (e.g., Zillow, Apartments.com, Craigslist), and social media platforms, especially Facebook Marketplace. Make sure to provide detailed information about the property, including rent amount, location, amenities, and any specific requirements.
  2. Pre-Screening: Before scheduling individual showings, conduct pre-screening over the phone, email, or text. Ask basic questions about their employment status, income, the reason for moving, desired move-in date, credit, number of occupants, etc. This can help filter out unqualified applicants early in the process. For example, here are our minimum requirements for tenant screening. Also, be sure to avoid questions that can violate Fair Housing Laws.
  3. Property Showings: Schedule property showings for interested applicants. During the showing, provide all necessary information about the property, show them around, and answer any questions they may have. Depending on the level of demand, it may be better to schedule several showings in an hour window, similar to an Open House.
  4. Rental Application: Require interested applicants to fill out a comprehensive rental application. The application should collect personal information, rental history, employment details, and references. You can utilize the premade one on Zillow or Apartments.com, which also gives you the applicant’s credit history along with other important information.
  5. Background Checks: Perform background checks on potential tenants. This typically includes running credit checks, criminal history checks, and eviction history checks. The credit check helps assess the applicant’s financial responsibility, while the criminal and eviction history checks ensure they don’t have a problematic background. If you collect application information through Zillow or Apartments.com, the Background Checks are already part of the package.
  6. Contact References: Reach out to previous landlords and personal references provided in the application. Talking to previous landlords can give insight into the applicant’s behavior, rental history, and whether they paid rent on time. Ask the previous landlords if the tenant pays on time, takes good care of the property, and if they would rent to the tenant again.
  7. Income Verification: Ensure the tenant’s income sufficiently covers the rent. Generally, tenants should have a monthly income of at least three times the monthly rent. For example, if rent is $2,000 monthly, the household income must be more than $6,000 monthly. Request pay stubs, bank statements, or employment verification as proof of income.
  8. Evaluate Pet Policies: If your property allows pets, consider the applicant’s pet history and assess any potential risks associated with accepting pets.
    • Check with your insurer to make sure the pet is not a restricted breed which can cause problems with your claim and coverage.
    • If you’re in a Condo, check with your condo management to understand the restrictions.
    • You might also consider charging a pet deposit or additional pet rent.
    • Remember, Emotional Support Animals (ESA) and Service Animals are not considered pets, and you cannot charge extra rent or deposit.
  9. Make an Informed Decision: After collecting all the necessary information, review the application and screening results carefully. Based on the data, make an informed decision on whether to approve or deny the applicant.

It’s crucial to have a systematic and documented process for tenant screening to ensure fairness and avoid any discrimination claims. Familiarize yourself with local and federal fair housing laws to ensure you comply with them throughout the screening process.

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