Finding the Right Fit: How to Screen Tenants

Tuesday, October 26, 2021

The eviction process is long, stressful, and costly, making it every landlord’s worst nightmare. But, you can avoid problematic tenants in your Houston rental altogether. Keep reading for our tips on how to screen tenants and find the right fit for you. 

Make Your Expectations Clear

You do not want to sort through the influx of potential candidates who do not meet your criteria because you were not specific enough when posting your application. The very basics qualities you should look for in candidates are: 

  • Past rental history 
  • Employment or income history
  • Tenant references from employers or previous landlords 

You should also make applicants aware of specific criteria or information about the rental that may filter out ineligible persons. Detail information about the access available (if it is wheelchair accessible), parking, storage, maximum occupants, smoking policy, and so on. 

Be Aware of Local, State, and Federal Rental Laws 

For example, if a lease you draft does not have a no-pet policy, a rule barring pets cannot be added mid-tenancy and. In some areas, if you choose to waive the no-pets clause, you may lose the ability to enforce it later. Additionally, regardless of the lease or apartment’s policy on pets, disabled tenants with service animals—from dogs to miniature horses—are allowed. 

Run a Credit Check

When you do a credit check on a potential tenant, you are looking for more than numbers on the higher end of the scale. A credit report can help you check the validity of the information on the application you received, like name, DOB, prior residences, and work history. You will also see if the person has past or ongoing issues with debt, evictions, late payments, and bankruptcy. 

Using this information, you may request a higher security deposit, a co-signer on the lease, or discuss your concerns to find a possible solution. 

Prepare Tenant Screening Questions 

Your application or advertisement should include the conditions that you are firm on and are not likely to negotiate. When the tenant gets to the screening section, include questions to understand what should be fixed before the move-in date. Knowing the move-in date gives you time to do these tasks and fill the unit in a timely fashion.  

How Many People Will Live In the Apartment?

Federal occupancy standards set limits on the number of people able to reside in an apartment building. The standard is two per bedroom—unless you can justify a reason for fewer tenants. 

What Is Your Income?

The typical income to look for is around 3x the monthly rent. So, if the property you are listing is $1,200 per month, tenant income should be around or exceed $3,600 monthly.

Have You Ever Broken a Lease?

If yes, ask why the contract was broken. If it was done without reasonable cause, proceed with caution. 

Are You Able to Sign an X-Year Lease?

While a 1-year lease is standard, it is not for everyone. Make clear with the tenant how long the lease is for and circumstances like whether you are willing to go month-to-month.  

Know That You Know How to Screen Tenants

You can help yourself avoid the eviction process from the start by finding suitable candidates for your rental property. Make your expectations clear, be aware of the laws, run checks, and compile interview questions for applicants. You are sure to find a serious and reliable renter if you follow these steps. 

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