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Best Practices for Screening a Tenant

When you’ve made a substantial investment into one or several rental properties, it only makes sense that you want them to stay nice and in good condition for years to come. One of the best ways to ensure that your rental property stays in good shape is to screen your tenants. By making sure that you’re renting to responsible, reasonable people, you could help keep your property in great shape – and ensure that you’re able to collect the rent on time. If you’re interested in screening a tenant or two, however, there are some best practices you should follow to make sure you stay on the right side of the law, while still renting to great people:

Make sure you stay within legal boundaries

Laws like the Federal Fair Housing Act prevent discrimination when you’re renting your property. Asking about gender or age is considered discrimination, and could lead to a lawsuit. If you want to ensure that you stay within your legal boundaries as a landlord, make sure you’re familiar with what might be considered discriminatory in your area.

Come up with a process

Writing down a screening process can help you ensure that you have a reliable method for screening each prospective tenant that comes your way. Plus, when you have a checklist, you can make sure that everyone completes the same forms and goes through the same interview process. When you complete each step for each person, you may be less likely to face discrimination charges, if it ever becomes a problem. It also makes it less likely that you’d inadvertently skip a step when screening a tenant and will allow you to fairly compare applicants.

Hire a screening service

While some prospective tenants may be perfectly honest, others might not be. One of the best ways to make sure your tenants are honest and responsible is to hire a screening service. They can run a background check as well as pull credit information to ensure that you have as much information about your prospective tenants as possible. This might turn up information about past evictions, poor credit or a history of skipping out on landlords.

Ask about the truth

If you do find a discrepancy, you may wish to ask about it. Perhaps a prospective tenant was evicted due to one-time medical bills, or was sued for unpaid rent. You may wish to discuss these issues before you turn somebody away. They may have an explanation that’s perfectly reasonable – so consider giving them the chance to “come clean” about any potential issues.

Be consistent in your background screening checks

One of the best ways you can ensure that you’re staying on the right side of the law is to stay consistent. When you are known to always screen tenants with a specific company, ask them the same interview questions, and run the same credit checks, you’ll be far less likely to run into discrimination issues. Plus, when you have a process that you always follow, you’ll be better able to compare potential new tenants.
Screening a tenant is a great way to ensure that you’re getting the right person or people for your rental property. Before you rent out your space, make sure you’ve followed these tips to get the best possible tenants.

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