The Ultimate to Guide to Tenant Screening & Renting Your House

Whether you’re having trouble selling your home and are looking to rent it out until you find a buyer or are interested in renting out a part of your home as an income property, finding reliable and trustworthy tenants is often one of the most difficult parts. Fortunately, this ultimate to guide to tenant screening & renting your house will walk you through the necessary steps to take when accepting rental applications, along with some tips on how to ultimately select a tenant you can trust.

Create a Rental Application

Start by creating a basic rental application that you have all potential tenants fill out. Keep in mind that fair housing laws in the United States require you to use the same application for all interested parties; you may not discriminate on the basis of sex, race, religion, gender, or disability when screening tenants, after all.

Some basic information you may wish to collect on the application include:

  • full name
  • basic contact information
  • employer information
  • names of other occupants
  • list of references

Run Credit and Background Checks

These days, it’s highly recommended that you run credit and criminal background checks on all prospective tenants for your property. You can pay different services to have these done separately, or you can find a reliable service that can conduct a credit and background check all at once.

Either way, keep in mind that you will need the applicant’s consent to run a credit and/or criminal background check. Therefore, if you plan on doing this, be sure to include a consent option on your formal application. Typically, you’ll need a social security number in order to obtain credit and background reports, so be sure to gather the necessary information.

A credit report is a great way to get an idea of the tenant’s financial risk. The higher the credit score, the more likely it is that you can rely on that tenant for steady income each month. Of course, a criminal background check can also give you peace of mind in knowing you’re renting to a person who hasn’t been convicted of any major crimes.

Contact References and Past Landlords

It’s never a bad idea to ask for a list of references and previous landlords when screening a potential tenant. References, such as managers and supervisors, can speak to an applicant’s character. On the other hand, contacting a past landlord is a great way to find out whether the tenant paid all of his or her outstanding debts upon moving out, whether any damage was done to the property, and other important information that could influence one’s decision to rent to the tenant.

It’s also a good idea to contact the current employer listed on the application to ensure that the applicant does, in fact, work there and have a steady income. Most employers won’t disclose specific salary information, but you should at least be able to confirm that the applicant is employed to the capacity that he or she claims.

Schedule a Face-to-Face Interview

This isn’t required by any means, but scheduling a face-to-face interview can be a great way to get a better feel for a prospective tenant and the lifestyle they live. This can help you determine whether or not they’d be a good fit for renting your home while establishing some ground rules regarding pets, visitors, and the like.

As you can see, there’s a lot to keep in mind when searching for the right tenant to rent your home. For more information on screening tenants and embarking on your journey as a landlord, be sure to sign up for a free 30-minute coaching session today.

4 Comments
  1. WomensNews 1 year ago

    Thanks Brandon, I have another question that I am hoping you or any of the cool folks can comment. crooks are usually clever, in the case potential tenant mislead you on the application and you come to find out after lease is signed and they have moved in, can you evict them based on that? of course if they lied about some requirement that should not be overlooked

    • Profile photo of Nathan Johnson Author
      Nathan Johnson 1 year ago

      You’re going to want to check with your lawyer and review your lease, but you should make sure to have a solid qualifying criteria that they can sign and you’ll have a better chance at terminating the lease agreement.

  2. RMAU 1 year ago

    Regarding the application collection process, I wonder if you could speak to both the ethical and legal parameters for deciding who will be your tenant in the fortunate situation that one has 10 good applicants for one apartment. After screening as you suggest, is it ok to collect all the applications, run the credit reports then choose among the best of them? Or should landlords be approving then accepting in a chronological manner? And in the event you are choosing among the best applicants, how do you inform applicant A that they did not get the apartment because their score was slightly less good than applicant B?

    • Profile photo of Nathan Johnson Author
      Nathan Johnson 1 year ago

      Good question, while there are no laws against this, it’s not best practice and can set you up for a fair housing discrimination law suit. The best practice is to provide the unit to the first person that pays.

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