Chapter 2

Pre-Screen Tenants to Save Time

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The Complete Guide to Tenant Screening

Pre-screen tenants

Tenant screening is a process. It takes time. But if you use pre-screening to your advantage, you can save yourself time down the road by not moving forward with tenants who are not a good match.

Pre-screening helps you eliminate any candidate who doesn’t fit your surface-level criteria. This kind of criteria can be easily determined during an initial conversation. For example, you should find out if a prospective tenant has a pet or smokes.

If you don’t ask the right questions during pre-screening, you end up wasting your time. The later stages of tenant screening, including the rental application, reaching out to references, and analyzing a credit and background check, should be reserved for tenant leads who have a high chance of being qualified.

Pre-screening also enhances your overall screening process. It’s your opportunity to set expectations for your rental process, which will help you attract quality tenants.

We’ve outlined three easy steps to help you pre-screen your tenants:

3 Steps of Pre-Screening

1) Use Your Rental Listing to Screen Tenants 

Your rental listing is how you find quality tenants. It’s the first point of contact between you and the thousands of tenants who might see your listing.

To attract quality tenants, you should write a catchy title, describe your property in an impressive way, and upload great photos.

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You need to generate tenant interest to avoid a rental vacancy, but attracting a high number of tenant leads makes your tenant screening process an uphill battle. You want only the best tenants to reach out to you.

In order to attract the best tenants, we recommend including this sentence in your property description:

Applicants are required to complete a rental application and authorize a $45 credit and background check.

It’s a simple sentence, but it effectively communicates to tenants what is expected of them. If the $45 is too expensive for a tenant, then he or she won’t reach out. Similarly, if a tenant has something to hide, then the credit and background check will deter him or her from reaching out.

The sentence above also helps you attract quality tenants. After all, quality tenants want a quality landlord who takes care of his or her rental business. If you think about it from the tenant’s perspective, a landlord who takes the time to screen tenants is also taking time to care for the property and the rental business. So for the tenant, this means the property is likely in better condition, the landlord is easier to communicate with, and the overall rental experience will be positive.

2) Ask the Right Questions During the First Contact

Once a tenant reaches out, he or she officially becomes a tenant lead. If you create a rental listing with us here at Rentalutions, you will receive an average of 16 tenant leads. Our software makes it easy for you to manage tenant leads with ease.

Typically, a tenant will reach out via email or phone. In your initial contact, you should ask the following pre-screening questions:

  • Why are you moving?
  • What is your current living situation?
  • When are you looking to move in?
  • What is your monthly income?
  • Can I ask for references from your former landlords and employer?
  • Will you submit a rental application and authorize a background check?
  • The security deposit is $X. Are you comfortable with that deposit amount?
  • Do you have pets?
  • Do you smoke?
  • Will you have roommates?

This can be a lot of questions to ask all up front, but it will give you the best sense of how qualified a tenant lead is from the start. While it’s a good idea to ask all of the questions above, here’s a breakdown of the 5 questions you must ask your tenants.

The initial contact should reduce the pool of candidates further. Here are two ways it will help:

  1. If a tenant lead does not agree to fill out a rental application, provide references, or authorize a credit and background check, then you can stop moving forward with him or her.
  2. If a tenant hears your requirements and doesn’t reach out again, then you do not need to move forward with this lead.

3) Screen Tenants at the Property Showing

Tenants typically reach out about 30-60 days before needing a new place to live, which means the entire tenant screening process occurs in a limited time span, meaning the property showing is likely the only time you meet a prospective tenant before making a decision.

To screen tenants at a property showing, you should meet each tenant separately. It’s easier to get to know a tenant, notice red flags, and remember the details when you are only meeting one tenant. This is why we believe that open houses are a waste of time. They make your screening process ineffective because you won’t be able to remember each tenant that you meet.

At the property showing, pay attention if the tenant:

  • Shows up on time
  • Takes care of his or her belongings
  • Asks important questions
  • Remains interested and engaged
  • Agrees to complete a rental application
  • Authorizes a credit and background check
  • Discusses moving forward in the process

If the tenant checks all of these boxes, then you should move forward with him or her.

Final Thoughts

Pre-screening is a valuable way for you to eliminate bad tenant leads, attract quality tenants, and save yourself time down the road. If you’ve followed our steps and found great tenant leads, then the next step is asking them to fill out rental applications.

In the chapter below, we’ll go over everything you need to know about rental applications:

  • The benefit of using online rental applications
  • What questions to ask
  • How to review a rental application
  • How to handle potential cosigners

Also published on Medium.

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