Which Documents Should I Request From A Tenant?

February 19th, 2020
Which Documents Should I Request From A Tenant?

Agents and Landlords rely on information provided by prospective tenants to ensure that the rental process goes smoothly. Of course, your screening service works to support you in making the right decision, but you should know what documents to ask from a tenant to make it a breeze to verify the information. You can't leave such important decisions like tenant screening to chance. By confirming all the details given on the rental application, you can be sure that you’re not going to be landed with a problem renter. To avoid fraudulent applications and financial loss, here are the top four types of documents to request from a prospective renter before they move in:

Identity Check

The basis of a rental application is the renter’s personal details, and as much as we’d all love to trust in human nature, you shouldn’t risk thousands of dollars on an applicant’s honesty. Unfortunately, identity theft does happen, as does some pretty sophisticated forgery, so check, check and check again to rule out dishonest applicants.

You need to vet your applicants and ensure that their details and documents are legitimate. Do this by asking to see government-issued ID such as their passport, or valid driver’s license. Upon lease signing, you could also request a copy of their social security card, to verify the number that they may have provided on their application.

Residential History

You need to keep an eye out for any potential problems in a prospective tenant’s past residential history. Make sure there are no evictions on their record and get a comprehensive reference from their previous landlords. It can be helpful to ask tenants why they’re moving on from their last place to get an indication of how they treat the property and whether they can afford the rent.

On the rental application form, you will have the tenant's residence history listed. Use this data to contact previous landlords to chat about their experience of the tenant and learn more about whether they would be a good fit for your property. You also need to double-check that the referral is legitimate by asking specific questions that a fake or ‘planted’ landlord wouldn't have any idea about. Questions covering the monthly rent, the dates that the tenant was resident, and the address of the property are useful in confirming that you are speaking to the right landlord and getting the real story.

You need to see a full residence history with no unexplained gaps. If you do see any periods of time that are unaccounted for, then talk to your applicant and find out why. An eviction report is also an essential part of the tenant screening process, and you can use that report to cross-reference that they haven't missed any addresses on their history that they were subsequently evicted from.

Employment and Income Details

Your application asks for details of the renter’s job and salary, but you need to ensure that you follow-up on this and check that you have been given accurate information. You need to be confident that your prospective tenant can cover the rent each month and the documents to ask for from a tenant to verify this include:

  • Pay stubs
  • W-2 tax forms
  • W-4 forms
  • Bank statements
  • Court-ordered settlements
  • Employment contracts

Don't forget to confirm any information about the tenant’s employer or wages by contacting the employer directly. It will give you peace of mind to talk to the company that the applicant works for to ensure that they are employed and that their income is as written in the application. Keep finances at the forefront of your mind when screening a tenant. After all, it is likely to cost thousands to evict the wrong tenant, so you need to know their credit score and what financial documents to ask for from a tenant in support of their application.

Solid References

In addition to the application form, you need documents that give you the facts of the renter’s situation, both financially and ethically. It is also a massive help to you to get contact information of references so that you can confirm for yourself the tenant’s position.

Sadly it is not unknown for some renters to provide false references, and you need to know if a candidate is hiding the truth or being dishonest with either landlord or employer references. You don't want to gamble with your financial security, so you have to do your utmost to steer clear of anyone untrustworthy. Having said that, you have to focus on the facts; very often, a referral will be keen to give their opinion but try and steer them back to specifics, such as whether the tenant habitually paid their rent late or if they earn the salary stated on the application form.

If your applicant avoids providing references, or you call a referral and they are reluctant to discuss the tenant, then be aware that there may be hidden problems. If you can’t get to the bottom of the issue when you investigate further, then think carefully about whether this is the tenant for you.

Take Away

You want peace of mind, and you need to be secure in the knowledge that you have uncovered all the details of your tenant's background and verified all the information they have given you. Investigate and cross-reference all the documentation that you are given. This is not the time to be too trusting, or it could cost you dearly. A good tenant evaluation begins with the initial application form, then hinges on how well you follow up with documentation.