Since the dawn of time, landlords around the world have been refining the art of tenant screening.
Tenant screening comes in all shapes or sizes. There are multiple companies that offer credit reports, background checks, and criminal records – all of which are important and should be included in the overall screening of an applicant.
However, the most valuable intelligence that I can gather on an applicant, usually comes from a previous landlord.
Step 1: Get an Tenant Application and Consent
Ask the applicants to fill out a Rental Application and Consent to Background/Reference Check. The “consent” form gives you permission to investigate them, and gives you a formal document that you can provide to the previous landlord without having to disclose the tenant’s sensitive info.
On my rental application template, I force all applicants to list their previous landlords.
Step 2: Cross-reference landlords with the property owners
Then, I match the landlord’s name and address with the local real estate public records (which are usually available online) to make sure they didn’t give me a false contact (i.e. their “buddy”).
This cross-reference usually only takes 5-10 minutes.
Step 3: Call the Landlords
Once I verify that the landlord listed on the application, does in fact own the properties, I will contact each landlord by phone. If they are stubborn about answering your questions, you can send them the consent form that the applicant previously filled out.
I have a series of questions that I always ask, which include:
- Did your former tenants pay rent on-time, every month?
- Did they damage your property in any way?
- Did they submit too many (or too few) maintenance requests
- Did they have a lot of parties?
- Did you ever get any complaints from neighbors or police?….
- and my favorite; “would you rent to them again, why or why not?“
The landlord’s response to this last question will tell me sooooo much more than a credit score.
Why is this important? The previous landlord has first-hand experience, and if they would not re-rent to your applicants, then you probably shouldn’t either.