The biggest challenge of any landlord is to choose good tenants. Problematic tenants can pose serious threats to you and your property. Issues stemming from choosing a bad tenant can range from property damage to late payments to problems with neighbors; all of which can be avoided by a serious screening process. Consider that a lease is a legally binding contract and one that should be professionally handled. There are several things to consider before choosing a tenant and here are some of the most important ones. 

Background checks

There are several background checks that you need to clear before choosing a tenant. A good option is to choose from background check sites that can gather all relevant information. Make sure to choose one that has good reviews and all the legal authorizations so you always stay on the safe side. Consider also their turnaround time as some decisions are time-sensitive. After you make your choice, you want to decide what information is important to you. 

Ask especially for:

  • Credit history and debt. It is essential to know if your potential tenant has had problems with past landlords, if he or she has outstanding debt, or if they have a bad credit history. Remember that only certified Credit Reporting Agencies can perform this type of check. 
  • Checking criminal records is essential to avoid any risks to other tenants, neighbors and to yourself. Most tenants are open to overlooking a misdemeanor, or mistakes made a long time ago. It is up to you to decide if you accept someone with a record. Other court records: You want to know if your potential tenant has been involved in important legal battles that may hint payment problems (for example, missed child support payments can be a red flag for a pattern of financial issues).

A complete application

It should include relevant personal and financial information, such as place of employment and salary. It should also include references. A good idea is to ask for references from previous landlords and call them during the first stages of the process. If an applicant does not want to disclose information on previous landlords, don’t continue. 

Contacting their employer is also recommended. Employers are usually good character judges, and they can give you important facts to consider before signing a contract. During the application stage, it is important to openly state that background checks are requested, as you’ll need them to sign their consent. The Association of Independent Landlords offers a good application form that you can consult here.

Interviews

Never agree to a lease with someone who you have not interviewed. Even if background checks are clear, there may be character issues that you’d rather not deal with. A good interview will give you a better sense of who you are dealing with, which is always important when it comes to protecting your property. 

 Be extremely clear on your boundaries and rules (for example: are roommates allowed? On what conditions? What about parties? Is smoking in the house a dealbreaker?) and pay attention to their reaction to those rules. Remember that prospective tenants want to make a good impression, so you want to read between the lines and evaluate character. 

Consider Using a Property Management Service

If you are unwilling to undergo all the above-mentioned steps and want to stay on the safe side, use a property management service. The benefits they offer are considerable, as it is their responsibility to vet applicants, collect payments and evict if necessary. Due diligence is important in choosing a service with a good record. Always look for a service that offers a comprehensive list of their responsibilities. This type of service is especially recommended for first-time landlords, as you can learn from them and avoid common mistakes.