By Daniel Berlind, CEO of Snappt on May 31, 2022

Believe it or not, people actually Google: “How to fill applications like a great tenant?”. They prepare for your questions, and some hide certain details that may disqualify them. That’s why, nowadays, as a property manager, it’s paramount you screen tenants properly.

Here are tenant screening tips for property managers.

Why should property managers thoroughly screen potential tenants?

A few low-quality tenants that slip through your filter will cause most of your grievances and headaches. Just like the 80/20 principle says: the bad 20% will cause 80% of the trouble. And just a few bad tenants can hurt your cash flow, hamper your growth speed, and deplete your energy.

How to filter a tenant?

Before we dive in, a good system of pre-qualifying a tenant is to start the filtering process early onstraight from the property showing. Ask questions that can identify red flags. Ask about smoking habits, party, and loud music routines, and if they think of adopting pets soon.

6 tenant screening tips for property managers

Use these 6 tenant screening tips to be a better property manager:

#1. Verify their income source

Today, with tech advancements and accessible photo editing tools, it’s easier to fake identification documents and paystubs. Heck, there are even websites that can help you do it. While not entirely waterproof, the strategy of asking for bank statements from the last 100 days makes it harder for a tenant looking to trick you because forging bank statements is harder.

#2. Contact at least two previous landlords

It’s entirely possible that a desperate landlord who got sick of their current tenant will lie about how great they areand trick another landlord (you, in this case) to take them in. Another trick often used is prospective bad tenants asking their relatives or friends to pose as previous employers or landlords. So, when calling, make an intentional mistake and hope to be corrected. You can change, “by mistake,” the name of the person or how long they lived there. For example, knowing the application states this tenant lived in their last apartment for two years, you can ask: “why didn’t they extend for a second year?”

#3. Check their social media

Digital advancements have their pitfalls, like easier access to faking documents. But it also carries advantages, such as scouring social media in detective mode. It’s a powerful tool and can help you see how prospective tenants carry themselves before and after the property showing. Try finding their LinkedIn, Facebook, and Instagram. First, match their face and their ID. Then, while scrolling, try fishing for information regarding past employment and residence.

#4. Systemize and legalize your process

From time to time, you’ll have to decline apps. Sometimes, that applicant may be a member of a protected class under federal or state housing regulations. And sometimes, they might accuse you of discriminating against them.

If and when this happens, you’ll want to be ready and prove you have a routine, systemized, and fair process for screening tenant applications. Make sure your process is race, gender, and disability neutral, and that the reason you disqualify apps is 100% legal.

#5. Lease only when the rental agreement is fully filled out & signed

Don’t neglect the application, and make sure it’s filled in its entirety. If and when you need to evict a tenant, you’ll need the lease and rental agreement fully signed. It’s your silver bullet in court, proving the tenant signed their name on something they did (or didn’t) fulfill.

#6. Run a background check and authenticate everything

Less than 40% of landlords run a background check on their prospective tenants. This data is shocking, considering the number of fake paperwork states like Florida (12.8%), Texas (14.1%), Michigan (14.6%), and New Mexico (14.2%) get each year. Also, insist that spouses or roommates go through background checks and make sure all the documents you receive are authentic.

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