How to Screen Tenants: A Guide for Landlords

How to Screen Tenants: A Guide for Landlords

Landlords spend the majority of their time finding tenants to fill their vacancies. It’s a long, arduous process, but by screening tenants, you can ensure you find the best ones for your property. A tenant screening guarantees your property will have responsible tenants.

To start the process, you need to understand the housing laws in your state and the right questions to ask. Use this article as a guide on how to screen tenants.

Keep reading to learn more!


Know what you are looking for in a tenant before you have them fill out an application. Ask your potential tenants open-ended questions to gauge their priorities. For example, if you don’t allow pets on the property, ask the potential tenant if they have pets.

You can also ask them their estimated move-in date and why they are leaving their current home. It's best to inform them of what the tenant screening process will entail. Tell them about any application fees and make sure they consent to a background check. 

If there are no red flags, you can move them to the next step. 

Know What Questions to Ask

As you begin screening tenants, plan your questions around five areas of the tenants’ history. The five areas should include:

  • Previous Eviction/Residence History
  • Credit History
  • Criminal History
  • Income
  • Employment

Asking questions about these subjects will help you know more about your tenant’s needs. You'll also see if they are a good fit for your rental property.

You must also follow Fair Housing Laws. It forbids you from denying tenants based on sex, religion, race, disability, and more.  Individual states also have housing laws that protect against discrimination.

Run a Credit and Background Check

A tenant’s credit report will show you if the prospective tenant pays their bills on time. You can also use it to help verify their income. Be sure to use a high-quality reporting agency so you can receive all the data you need.

Run a tenant background check to see if your prospective tenant has a criminal history. Double-check your reports to ensure that you aren’t falsely denying them due to an error. 

Verify Income and Employment

Verify your tenants income to ensure they are able to afford the rent. The applicant’s monthly income should be at least three times higher than the cost of the rent. You can use a tool online to help you calculate if need be.

Checking the status of their employment will give you an idea of their reliability. Talk with their employer to get a sense of their job performance and history. Knowing their job stability will help you determine if they are a reliable applicant.

Talk to Them

The best tenant screening is having a conversation with the prospective applicant. After you look over the documents and finish the tenant's criminal background check, set up an interview. Use this time to reiterate the terms of the lease and ask any questions you have about your findings. 

Check if the tenant plans to have pets in the future and explain what that might look like cost wise. You should also have a clear understanding of how many people will be living in the unit. Ask your prospective tenant if they plan on having a roommate, or have family that comes to visit on a consistent basis.

The goal of the interview is to fine-tune and give you peace of mind that you have chosen the right tenant.  

Understand How to Screen Tenants with a Property Management Service

Learning how to screen tenants can be overwhelming. But performing a tenant screening is crucial to finding the best tenants for your property. The team at Home River Group Philadelphia is here to help!

Our high-quality tenant screening service will guarantee your property has reliable tenants.

Reach out today or visit our website for more information.

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