How to Qualify a Tenant for Your Rental

9 Standards Every Prospective Tenant Must Meet

Picture of Rental Qualifying Standards for Tenants
Rental Qualifying Standards for Tenants. Jamie B/RooM/Getty Images

Selecting a tenant to live in your rental is a huge responsibility. You are looking for someone who will pay their rent, follow their lease, be respectful of their neighbors and not cause damage to their unit. Having a list of standards every prospective tenant must meet can help you quickly eliminate the tenants that do not meet your requirements. Here are nine standards to qualify tenants for your rental.

What Are Tenant Qualifying Standards?

Tenant qualifying standards are criteria a prospective tenant must meet before they can even be considered as a renter for your property. It is basically the first stage in the tenant screening process. 

Tenant qualifying standards must be legal standards that directly relate to a tenant's ability to pay their rent and follow the terms of their lease agreement. For example, verifying a tenant's income relates to their ability to pay their rent. Asking for a copy of a marriage license is not a legal requirement as it has nothing to do with paying rent or following a lease.

Same Standards for All

To ensure you are not accused of discrimination, tenant qualifying standards must be the same for every single tenant who applies to fill a vacancy at your property. It is illegal to alter these requirements or have different requirements because of someone’s age, race, gender, religion or any other characteristic protected under the Federal Fair Housing Act. For example, it would be illegal to have a qualifying standard that the tenant cannot have any children because this would be discrimination against families.

9 Examples of Tenant Qualifying Standards

Qualifying standards are a checklist for landlords. They allow you to screen tenants according to the same basic criteria.

Every landlord may have slightly different qualifying standards, which is fine, as long as the standards are not in violation of any laws. Here are some examples. 

1. Maximum Number of Tenants Per Apartment

For safety purposes, there is a maximum number of people that can live in each rental unit. This is usually based on the number of bedrooms a unit has and your local fire codes.

Two people per bedroom is a general rule of thumb. So, for a two bedroom apartment, you can have a maximum occupancy of four people, unless your local code says otherwise. 

2. Copy of Valid Photo ID

You need some sort of proof that the prospective tenant is who they are claiming to be on their rental application. One way to do verify their identity is to ask for a valid government issued photo identification card. A driver's license is a common form of identification. On a driver's license, you will be able to verify the tenant's current address and their date of birth.

​3. Income Verification

You want to make sure the tenant has a verifiable source of income to meet their monthly rent payments. You can verify a tenant's income by asking for W-2's, copies of pay stubs or copies of bank statements. 

4. Sufficient Income Level

You can require that all tenants have a monthly income of at least ‘X’ times greater than the monthly rent. You just have to make sure this requirement is the same for all tenants.

The income requirement will change based on the price of the rental. For example, you require an income level that is two times the monthly rent. For a rental that is $1,000 a month, the tenant must have a monthly income of at least $2,000. For a unit that rents for $2,000 a month, the tenant's income must be at least $4,000 a month. 

5. Employment Verification

You want to verify that the prospective tenant:

  1. Works where they claim to work.
  2. Makes the amount they claim to make
  3. That they are employed for the foreseeable future.

You can send a written notice to the tenant's place of employment requesting this information.

6. Credit Checks Will Be Run on All Applicants

 A credit check can help you determine if there is a large amount of debt that could affect a tenant’s ability to pay their rent on time or if they have a generally poor credit history. The tenant must provide written consent in order for you to run the credit check. 

7. No History of Evictions

 A credit check can inform you if the tenant has been involved in any legal issues, such as an eviction. You want tenants who are going to pay their rent, follow their lease and stay for their entire lease term. 

​8. No Criminal History

A background check can turn up any history of criminal activity. You can deny tenants who have been convicted of a crime that could endanger the safety of other tenants, such as drug dealing.

​9. Security Deposit Amount Required

The amount you can request will differ based on your state laws, certain states set a limit on how much you can charge. The security deposit amount is based on the monthly rent, for example, two times the monthly rent, and should be the same for all tenants.