What is involved in tenant screening?

In tenant screening, a current paycheck is something the landlord would like to obtain.

Tenant screening is an important tool for property owners and property managers to help them decide whether or not to rent a unit to a particular person. Using common sense and being aware of warning signs is important, but it’s not always enough to avoid troublesome tenants. Information such as criminal records, housing records, and employment verification are all part of a good tenant screening, which can greatly decrease the likelihood of problems for the landlord later on.

A tenant with multiple evictions cannot pass a tenant screening.

In order for the owner to get the full picture, it is helpful to get information from multiple sources. An essential part of the tenant screening is previous housing information. The landlord will want to know if a potential tenant has been evicted before. A single eviction can be attributed to extenuating circumstances, but multiple evictions are a strong warning sign. However, most troubled tenants don’t make it to eviction court, so troubled tenant reports, obtained from a reputable tenant screening agency, will help complete the picture.

Criminal records are another essential piece of information. The ability to see past criminal history is essential when evaluating a potential tenant. Many tenant screening agencies provide nationwide criminal searches, which can be very valuable. Often, simply having each applicant sign an authorization to search criminal records will scare away those for whom this would be a problem.

It is also important to establish the tenant’s financial responsibility. A proper tenant selection will include a snapshot of a person’s financial history, their debt and, of course, employment. The purpose of this part of the screening is to verify that a person will be able to pay rent in full consistently and on time. A credit report and paycheck are things the landlord would like to obtain, and a call to the person’s employer is also advisable.

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Tenant screening agencies have been in operation since the late 1960s and emerged in response to the lack of information available at the time to landlords about potential tenants. Getting things like criminal records took so much time and effort that most homeowners failed to do it. In general, the longer a screening agency has been in business, the more reliable it is. Using such services costs the landlord a fee, but many will pass this fee on to the tenant as a non-refundable application fee. In fact, this serves the dual purpose of lowering lessor costs as well as filtering serious renters from those who are casual buyers.

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