Becoming a landlord: three things to think about as you screen your tenant

Have you made the leap into becoming a landlord? Or are you still contemplating it? One of the hardest things that many new landlords face is the tenant screening process.

From the outset, it seems very daunting. The good news is that screening a tenant is actually quite simple. There are really just three things to keep in mind as you find your tenant. And from there, being a landlord isn’t that hard! For advice on being a landlord, there are plenty of great resources out there!

When screening, consider these three things:

  1. Background

Here is the best news you’re going to hear all day: it’s really easy to do a background check! For around $30 and a few minutes of your time, you can get a full background report and credit report on your prospective tenant!

There are dozens of online services for quick and accurate background check services. And to be honest, most have very similar offerings.

The two cornerstones to any quality background check will be the credit report and criminal background report. The credit report is going to tell you how well your applicant has handled their credit in the past, and whether they might be trustworthy to pay monthly rent. A quality credit score is a must, and you shouldn’t settle for anything less!

The second key search will be the criminal background report. It’s amazing what you might find here. You can be a bit more discretionary with how you look at this information. In general, a clean record is going to be a better thing than not, but feel free to have a discussion with your prospective tenant about anything that comes up here.

If you’d like, you may also elect to do a few additional searches. These aren’t quite as important, but they are still money well spent. Consider getting information on employment history, eviction reports, foreclosure/bankruptcy history, address history and sex offender status. For just a few extra dollars, you’ll get access to all this information and will be able to make a much more informed decision.

  1. References

This may sound silly to say, but CALL THE REFERNCES your tenant applicant gives you! It’s easy to skip over this step, but it’ll be well worth the time! Talk to both employers and past landlords.

Some great questions to ask are:

  • “Can you discuss how responsible ___________ is?”
  • “How well has ___________ paid rent in the past? How often were they late?”
  • “How long has ___________ worked with your company?”
  • “Would you recommend I rent my property to ___________?”

It sounds simple, and it really is. However, most landlords will skip this step, and just assume that the references are going to say good things. You’ll be surprised how honest people might be if you ask these questions.

  1. Responsibility

You can measure a lot about a person in the small details. Things such as how punctual a person is to a meeting, how well they communicate, and how prepared they are for your meetings.

These factors are a bit harder to quantify, but are just as important as ones like the background check and references. If your new tenant has poor communication before you sign a lease with them, they’ll most likely have poor communication after you rent them your property.

Trust your gut feeling, and keep looking for the right person until you find somebody that you feel is responsible. After all, you’re handing over your keys to the house! You want somebody in the property that will treat it with the respect it deserves.

The first step to being a landlord is finding a fantastic tenant. Good luck on the tenant screening! Being a landlord isn’t as hard as it’s made out to be. Just be sure to be smart with how you approach it.

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