This post is part of my Landlord Life series. I’ll share how I dealt with certain situations, the mistakes I made, and the lessons I learned. I personally have learned a great deal from fellow landlords and I hope to pay it forward by sharing my stories and advice.
My tenant screening process has changed over the years. In the beginning, I simply met with prospective tenants, had them fill out the rental application and then just kind of winged it. Not a good idea. Finding the best tenant for your rental is actually easier when you have a system set up to catch unqualified prospects. I learned this the hard way.
This is the process I’ve used for the last few years and it’s been very effective for me.
1. Place a for rent ad on Craigslist.
I prefer Craigslist because they mask your email and I’ve also gotten a lot of inquiries any time I’ve used their service. I don’t place ads on Facebook only because I use it for blogging and personal so I prefer to keep that separate. I use my ad to start pre-screening by listing my requirements such as no smokers or vapers.
2. I send my pre-screening questions to people who respond to the ad. A lot don’t bother answering them which is great because part of its purpose is to weed out undesirable candidates. I use Google Forms for this because it’s free and I can view the answers on a spreadsheet.
These are the questions I ask in my pre-screening;
– What is the total number of occupants and how many are 18 and over?
– What is the combined monthly income of all the occupants that will be living in the home?
– How many years have you lived at your current residence and why are you moving?
– Do you smoke or vape?
– Do you have any animals? If yes what are they including breed and their weight.
– Have you ever filed for bankruptcy?
– Have you ever been convicted for selling, possessing, distributing or manufacturing illegal drugs or convicted of any other crime? If yes, explain.
– Have you ever been evicted for nonpayment of rent or any other reason?
If they smoke or vape, that disqualifies them. I ask about animals, not pets because some people have animals they don’t consider pets. Bankruptcy is not an automatic disqualification but if they answer yes to other things it gives a better picture. If they have been evicted, that disqualifies them.
3. I look over the pres-screeing answers and invite qualified candidates to a group appointment. Kind of an open house but not open to the public. These are scheduled on the weekend with a 2-3 hour window. I use group appointment so as to not waste my time with people who don’t show up.
4. Those who attend the open house and are interested, are invited to fill out a rental application and submit to a background check and credit report. I use the Tellus app for this step. I email prospects my personal link and they fill everything out online. It’s free, which is great and they offer other features that I’m sure I’ll use over time.
5. When the reports come back, it’s just a matter of choosing the first applicant that passes the background check and makes at least 3x the rent. With my current tenant, this process took about two weeks from start to finish.