This article is the second in a 5 part series that describes what a good screening process should entail. This part of the series describes the apartment showing and how to use this as a step in the screening process. Last week, we talked about screening your tenants during the first stage, the point of first contact. In that article, we discussed the 5 questions you should ask the prospective tenant during the initial phone call or email. In this part, we discuss the moment where you show the apartment and how to identify red flags that indicate potential future problems with prospective tenants.

A Quick Recap: Five Stages to a Good Screening Process

Slide2

 

Last week we talked about the five stages to a good screening process (shown above). We’ve listed these again below for reference.

Stage 1: First Contact – The prospective tenant calls you for more information about the property and the lease. Ask some pre-screening questions to make sure this prospective tenant isn’t going to waste your time.

Stage 2: The Showing – The prospective tenant has passed stage 1. Now, you’ve scheduled to show the apartment and will meet the prospective tenant(s) face-to-face for the first time.

Stage 3: The Application – Your prospective tenant is still interested and so are you. Have them fill out a rental application that includes references from prior landlords and employers. Run a credit report and criminal check.

Stage 4: Approval Process – This tenant seems like a good candidate. Complete the rental approval process by accepting him/her and gently declining all other applicants. You’re not done screening, however, until you have a signed lease agreement.

Stage 5: Lease Signing – You and your prospective tenant(s) are ready to sign a lease. Go through the lease with him/her carefully and make sure all the rules are completely understood. It’s not too late to rip up the lease if things aren’t going well, even at this point.

Quick tips on showing the property

You have some potential tenants coming over soon to view your rental property. Consider following these tips to ensure they fall in love with your property. The goal is to find great tenants as quickly as possible. This will save you the time and hassle of showing the apartment over and over. Although these tips aren’t necessarily screening tips, the idea is to save you valuable time.

  1. Consider the curb appeal of the property. Make sure shrubbery is well taken care of and any trash has been removed. If your prospective tenants see debris and overgrown hedges, they’ll question whether you are a good landlord or a penny-pincher who won’t take care of the property. A messy property tends to attract messy renters. Don’t let them think they can add to the mess.
  2. Fix any problems in the apartment beforehand. Take care of leaky sinks, rogue appliances and other issues before a tenant sees the property. This includes making sure the apartment is clean. A prospective tenant who sees problems and dirt will believe that its OK for them to mistreat the property as well. Well-maintained, clean apartments get well-groomed, clean tenants.
  3. Have selling points ready to discuss. If the property has plenty of storage, a nice deck, large bedrooms or unique amenities, be sure to mention these. Although you may not always think of yourself as a salesman, you are selling here.
  4. Turn the lights on in each room when you’re showing the apartment or house. Let the tenant see things in the best light. If there are nice windows, let the natural light fill the room.
  5. Set the temperatures so that they’re comfortable, typically between 70 and 74 degrees. You want the tenant thinking about where he/she is going to put the couch and TV, and not about how cold or hot they are.
  6. Be prepared with a rental application, credit check authorization forms, etc. If you’re using a system like Rentalutions, just grab their email address. You’ll log in later and request them to complete the next steps online.

Can you Judge a Book By Its Cover?

Short answer – yes! This will most likely be your first face-to-face meeting with your new renters. You can learn a lot about how they carry themselves and take care of their own property. Take a look at the prospective tenant’s car to see how well it’s maintained and cleaned. Does it look like a McDonald’s dumpster and have completely worn down tires? Chances are your prospective renter will treat your property the same way, if not worse.

If there will be multiple tenants or an entire family, you can suggest that all people to be on the lease come look at the apartment. This gives you an opportunity to view family/friend dynamics and meet everyone who would be moving in.

You can also start to learn their manners. Did the renters wipe their feet before entering? Did you see or smell if any of them smoked? Good qualities come in pairs (as do bad qualities). If they’re polite, you can bet that they have other good qualities as renters as well. Plus, its just better transacting with polite people.

Red Flags to Watch Out For

Here are a few additional red flags to watch out for while you show the apartment. If any of these come up, you should highly reconsider renting to these potential tenants.

  1. Did other people show up to the apartment than what had been said or indicated during the first phone call or email? Make sure you understand who you are renting to. Each person should submit an application and authorize a background check. You don’t want to allow people living in the apartment that are not on the lease agreement.
  2. Did the prospective tenant speak negatively about their current or previous landlords? What kinds of complaints were you hearing? Can you validate these complaints with those landlords? It’s often the case that the landlord-tenant relationship deteriorates quite quickly when there are money or behavioral issues at play. Neither of which you want to inherit.
  3. Is the new tenant in a big hurry to find an apartment/house? Unless there’s a good reason for the rush, such as a sudden job relocation, this could be a sign of a serious problem, such as an eviction at his current rental. Follow up on this by speaking with their current landlord.
  4. Were the prospective tenant(s) on time for the apartment showing? If they’re late to a showing, will they be late on other things, such as rent payments.
  5. Were the prospective tenant(s) easy to coordinate with? In a perfect world, your tenant would pay on-time every month and the apartment would never require any maintenance. However, that rarely happens and you’ll need to be able to coordinate with the tenant in the future. Make sure they can be reliable enough should you need to coordinate maintenance in the future.
  6. Are they criticizing the property? If they’re not even renting yet and complaining, just imagine what it will be like when they’re actually paying money to live in the property. And that’s if you’re lucky. What if they stop paying based on some inconsequential thing?
  7. Listen to the questions that your prospective new tenants ask. These questions indicate whats important to them and how they prioritize things. Are they asking how to best host a party or if the neighbors are complainers? If so, reconsider.

Next Steps

If you’re following along in our five-part series to help you screen your tenants properly then keep a look out for next week when we discuss the rental application, background checks and more.

About Rentalutions

Our online rental software helps do-it-yourself landlords be the best they can be by providing tools to screen tenants, create leases and collect rent, all online. Learn more by visiting Rentalutions.com. Plans start at just $5 per month.

Guide Banner

 JOIN OUR NEWSLETTER

Get new landlord content direct to your inbox monthly.

  • karen

    So how do you say No to somebody, when your gut says don’t rent to them? I would rather have my basement suite sit empty for an extra month or two, until I find the right tenant. I want somebody that will “fit” in our home, especially since we have kids and will likely have a modest amount of interaction. Thanks!

    • kasiamanolas

      Hi Karen, if you want to reject a tenant, we recommend saying, “We’re sorry to inform you that the property at [property address] is no longer available. At this time, we’ve rented this property to other applicants. Thank you.” If you have any other questions, feel free to reach out!

  • Kasia Manolas

    Hi Valerie, I’m so sorry that happened to you. It sounds like your landlord was not responsible. While this article is aimed to help landlords spot red flags in tenants, you’re absolutely right that it’s also important for tenants to spot bad landlords. I hope you find a new home soon, and if you have any questions or need help along the way, please let us know.

  • Kasia Manolas

    Hi, thank you for pointing this out. It’s typically best to wait until you’ve decided on a tenant before letting other tenants know your decision. This also makes sure you don’t reject tenants before you’ve secured a tenant saying yes. Thanks for adding your feedback! Best, Kasia.

  • Kasia Manolas

    Hi Kevin,

    That is very true. Great point to add!

    Best,
    Kasia

  • Kasia Manolas

    Hi David,

    I’m sorry to hear about the situation. Is there anything we can do to help? We offer educational resources for tenants, but it sounds like your situation is best equipped for a landlord-tenant lawyer.

    Best,
    Kasia