The Complete Guide to Tenant Screening

How to Thoroughly Screen Prospective Tenants

If you want to find a reliable, responsible tenant you need to have a great screening process in place. Learn everything from how to advertise your rental to how to avoid being accused of housing discrimination.

Where to Find Tenants

Couple smiling at each other as woman accepts keys from second woman
It's important to screen prospective tenants. PhotoAlto/Laurence Mouton/Getty Images

Tenant screening begins when you make the decision to advertise your property for rent. You can advertise online, by word of mouth, or take out an ad in your local newspaper. Of course, the best, and easiest route is asking friends and family but often those close to you don't know any potential renters. 

15 Things to Include in Your 'For Rent' Ad

Now that you know where to find tenants, the next part of the screening process involves understanding what you should include in the ads you place. A well-formulated ad will help you attract the very best quality tenants. Here's where it's important to conduct a background check on your prospective tenants. Those not willing to undergo a background check should be avoided.

10 Questions for Prospective Tenants

Once you have generated interest in your property, the next step is to develop a series of questions you will ask every prospective tenant. These questions will be your basic qualifying standards. The main thing is, you want to make sure tenants can pay their rent, so don't be shy about asking to see a pay stub or W-2 form.

Questions You Cannot Ask a Prospective Tenant

When interviewing prospective tenants, there are certain questions which you are legally not allowed to ask. The obvious ones are race and religion, but you also are not allowed to inquire about someone's familial status. Here is what you should not say during a tenant interview.

What Is Fair Housing?

When screening tenants, you must adhere to the Federal Fair Housing Act. You must be familiar with this act to avoid any lawsuits if you discriminate against a potential renter based on such things as color and national origin. Learn which classes are protected from discrimination in housing.  

10 FAQs About Housing Rights for the Disabled

Disability is one of the classes protected under the Federal Fair Housing Act. To properly screen tenants, you must understand who is considered disabled as well as your obligation as a landlord to make reasonable accommodations for the disabled. Did you in some states, like New York, hoarding is considered a disability?

How to Select the Right Tenant for Your Property

The purpose of tenant screening is to select the right tenant for your property. Here's where you want to make sure you rent to someone who is stable/responsible, and an easy way to do that is to look at their rental history. Did they provide the proper amount of notice? Did they leave their last rental property clean? Learn what to look for in a tenant to make this decision easier.

How to Run a Credit Check on a Prospective Tenant

A credit check reveals an applicants prior financial history. The past can prove to be a good barometer of what a tenant will do in the future. This is a very important step when screening a tenant, so you must learn the proper steps to run a credit check. At the very least a credit check will reveal if someone has ever filed for bankruptcy or has an eviction history.