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Tenant Screening is an Art.

George Skidis

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Tenant Screening is an Art

 After being in this business for a while you realize that tenant screening is an art. However, that is a misnomer. It should really be called applicant screening. No one is a tenant until you give them the keys.

 There are several strategies in tenant screening. None of them work alone. They are like wearing layers in the winter time to stay warm when outside. A great big bulky coat is great. But without layers underneath you will soon freeze.

What you need

You need the applicant’s written permission to perform any type of research on them. Always have an attorney approved “Authorization to Release Information”. Even if you buy our course on tenant screening all of the forms included need to be checked by an attorney specific to where you do business. What works in southern Illinois might not work in liberal Chicago or any part of Cook County. A LegalShield membership will handle the review of all of our tenant screening forms for under $40.00 a month. Go to www.Skidis.Biz for more details about a LegalShield membership.

Electronic Data Searches

The same is true with screening prospective tenants. No one tool does it all. You need to check ALL of the following records: credit history, credit score, full criminal history, address history, sex offender records and see if they are on the government watch list. Who has time for that? That is why we use Rent Perfect. As an entrepreneur your time is more valuable than that.

With Rent Perfect you can set your rental criteria before the house is even available. Then if the applicant does not reach your standards you can click the box and send out an Adverse Action letter in compliance with all Federal Law.

When you should play private detective

After completing the Electronic data searches it is time to move on to Step 2  -   Playing Private Detective. Just remember that tenant screening is an art and from here on out it is up to you. Each and every one of the actions below may require that a copy of the “Authorization to Release Information” be provided to get the answer you are seeking. For the most part you are an arm chair detective and should do this from the comfort of your desk or kitchen table.

Call the Current Landlord

Call the current landlord and ask them if they have any units for rent and what the price is.  If it is a landlord they will respond appropriately. If not the landlord it is a friend or relative of the applicant who is screening the calls. If it is a landlord call back from another line and ask about the applicant.

Call the Prior Landlords

Ask the prior landlords for the last 5 years if they would rent to the applicant again, did they leave owing money and if the damage deposit was refunded.

Call the Employer

Employers are getting gun shy. They do not want to become a target in a lawsuit. Call the employer and get a fax or e-mail to send your request to. Be prepared to be refused. Use the “Employment Verification” and the “Authorization to Release Information” forms you received with the purchase of the “Ins and Outs of Tenant Screening”.

The Last Step

 If the applicant has made it this far then it is time for the last step. If at all possible drive to their current residence and see what it looks like outside. That is the best predictor of what your house will soon look like.

 If the outside looks ok and you are brave enough stop the car, and go up to the front door and knock. If the door opens only a crack and they do not invite you inside they might have something to hide.

 If they do not ask you in then tell them that an inspection of their current residence is required to complete their application.  If they refuse you can use that as one of the factors they did not qualify.

Get to the Kitchen

Once inside if you think it is clean enough ask for permission to go into their kitchen. Again is it clean enough? If clean enough then suggest you sit down and complete some additional required paperwork.

There are a couple of reasons for choosing the kitchen. First, if handled properly it can help establish rapport with your applicant. Secondly, most kitchen chairs are either hard surface or lightly padded. That makes them easy to get up and out of. Kitchen chairs normally do not have hidden pockets or creases for something to crawl out of. This is very important for your personal security.

Additional Paperwork

On your forms disk included with “The Ins and Outs of Tenant Screening” you will find two applications. The first application is a one page document that you fill out at the first meeting. It is short and sweet and will not chase any applicants away from a showing or open house.

The second application is more detailed. It is long and detailed for a reason. You are about to rent your property to someone you just met. Wouldn’t it be a good idea to know about their vehicles, insurance, doctor, next of kin and other pertinent details that would allow you to track them down latter and get what they owe you? 

Tenant Screening is an Art

You must use all of the tools at your fingertips to do the best job possible. Don’t get in a rush. Use good judgment and avoid being involved in a lawsuit for violating fair housing laws.

Remember, Tenant Screening is the first step in the eviction process.


Good Luck and Good Investing!

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