How to Screen Tenants in the Rental Application Process

For some landlords, choosing a potential tenant may be a casual process, based on a handshake and a smile. However, professional rental representation and property management requires a higher level of performance to ensure that you find a reliable and well-qualified tenant. Learn how the rental application helps you when screening applicants so that you can make more informed decisions on every property you manage.

January 22, 2019

3 min read


When you’re renting out a property, at some point you will be sending out applications. Applicants need to fill them out. But why do you need one? For a safer renting process, you can review finished rental applications and make an informed decision on picking prospective tenants.

If you’re looking for the ideal way to screen rental applicants, you’ve come to the right place. We’ve broken down each step, so you can work efficiently when you receive a rental application.

Man looking at rental applications and on the phone


You have a unit up for rent, posted the listing and received some responses. One of the first things you should do before sending out rental applications is to go through a prescreening process. This can save a tremendous amount of time. There are a couple of things you can do in this step:

  • Look through an applicant’s public information. This is the information that you can commonly find on a social media website. This can mean checking Facebook, Instagram, or LinkedIn pages to learn more about them.
  • On some of these websites, you can find history, photos, and any other general information that can be used to learn more about them.
  • Get on the phone and chat with your applicants. Be open to your applicants and encourage them to speak. Let them know about your screening criteria and be sure to answer any questions they have about the property.

Before meeting the applicant, you should have a feel for your prospective clients. Taking a few minutes to search online or speak on the phone with the applicant can save you hours of time later, and give you move confidence in your decision.

Collecting Rental Applications

When dealing with rental applications, it’s always a good idea to use a vetted one. These applications will almost always ask applicants information that is within safe legal guidelines.Doing this can prevent discrimination against prospective tenants. The California Association of Realtors (C.A.R.) for example, uses a vetted rental application that requests information that is within state and federal guidelines. The idea of a vetted application is to have applicants provide information that cannot be used in a discriminatory manner and to keep you from making mistakes.

Screening Reports

When you are screening tenants there are a few things that you need to look out for. Aside from some of the obvious things on the rental application, there are other things that require a more detailed background check. Of course, under the consent of the applicant, a more detailed background check can be presented to you and can help you make an even more informed decision when picking out a renter. Here are the more common screening reports you might access:

  • Credit Reports, check the credit score of the applicant.
  • Background checks, check if the applicant has had any convictions on record.
  • Eviction history reports, check if the applicant has had any past evictions.
With a pencil checking a rental application

Verifying Applicant Information

Even though you may have received a rental application from an applicant, that is only the beginning. You still need to verify his or her information. There are several ways you can go about this:

  • Identity verification - You want to make sure your applicant is accurately representing themselves. You can request from applicants a valid photo ID; this can include a state-issued driver’s license or a valid United States passport.
  • Employment verification - You can ask for documents to prove the applicant’s past and present employment. Contacting these references can help you verify that an applicant is employed and is not lying on their rental application.
  • Income - When evaluating tenants, one thing you should look out for is their income. You want to know, if they can afford the lease price, consistently pay the rent, and pay any security deposit. If the applicant has been or is employed, then you can possibly ask for their W-2 income statements or pay stubs to confirm their income
  • Residence History - When checking your tenant’s residence history, some of the important things to keep in mind are the length of past residencies, previous evictions, and even feedback from past landlords. All this information together can be vital in learning how a tenant behaved as an occupant.
  • References - You can request an applicant's references, to learn more about their background. References can range from family members, close friends, to even past or current coworkers. References can be used to get a better feel of an applicant.

In Closing

When screening tenants, it’s important that you learn as much as you need about them. This can range from running consented screening checks to verifying applicant documents. In the end, with the help of a rental application, your job is to find good tenants. So, it really is important to make as informed of a decision as you can.


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