Finding the right tenant can often be a slow, plodding trek through a pile of applicants. We’ve seen too many private landlords agonize over this. It’s the most impactful choice a landlord must make, and sloughing through renters’ on-paper personas takes a keen eye and first-rate red-flag detector. Vintage Real Estate Services has over 15 years of experience hand-selecting renters to occupy residences across Tampa Bay. Thanks to our screening process we have an eviction rate of less than 1% of tenants. It’s a track record we’re proud of, and one keeps our listings fresh. Today, we’ll teach you how to screen renters like a professional.
HOW TO SCREEN TENANTS LIKE THE PROS:
1. Check Their Credit Score: Is the combined (average of all occupants) credit score above 600?
A credit check can give you a lot of insight into your renters’ financial history. Missed payments, high credit card balances, accounts in collection, and landlord-initiated evictions can all negatively affect a renters’ credit standing. A “credit score” is actually a combination of three separate numbers: TransUnion, Experian, and Equifax. When the applicants are single, cohabiting individuals, it’s standard to average these three credit scores across all potential roommates.
We do this because ‘credit checks’ aren’t always reflective of a renter’s ability or intention to pay rent. The last two years have been difficult for many Americans. We try to take the individual into account; Vintage Real Estate Services knows people are more than numbers on a page, which is why we dutifully and carefully consider each applicant packet within the context of a potential household.
2. Verify Employment: Have they been steadily employed (preferably in the same industry) for at least 2 years?
Keep in mind, numbers on a page cannot tell us everything about prospective tenants, and credit score alone won't paint a comprehensive picture. But some numbers — like employment history, the length of the time spent at the current position — can provide deeper insight into the way your tenant operates. We want to believe the information renters submit is always 100% accurate; employment verification is the only true way to confirm it in this case.
Sometimes checking LinkedIn isn’t enough. Don’t be afraid to reach out to employers to verify employment details and to ask pertinent questions. Employers can provide clearer assessments and offer greater details about the personal/professional nature of your potential renter.
Glowing reviews from an employer go a long way in establishing character profiles. Those who have committed to a long-term job give the impression of stability, commitment, and responsibility. These are the positive attributes we look for in our renters. A checkered employment history can be a red flag — but again, will not tell you the entire story. Entrepreneurs, contracted employees, and gig workers can all attest to that. Just because someone changes jobs frequently, that shouldn’t preclude them from the pool of applicants. Vintage Real Estate Services considers all applicants on a case by case basis for exactly this reason.
3. Verify Their Income: Is their net income at least 3 times the rental price?
We cannot stress this enough: get the pay stubs, the invoices, or the proof of payment in whatever form your renters receive it! Americans have a habit of concealing or inflating their yearly incomes in social situations. That may be so – but professionally, it’s our job to make sure renters are honest. Income verification is an important step in identifying serious renters and weeding out the less than truthful..
Without verification, the risk of exaggerated (or even fabricated) income becomes too great to be ignored. If someone claimed to be the founder and CEO of Google, you’d double-check the claim; if someone claims to make a six-figure salary, they should be expected to prove it.
So don’t be afraid to ask for income verification! It’s another vital piece of the puzzle; in many ways, it carries the most weight in an application. Balking at a request for income verification is the reddest of flags!
Ideally, your renters are spending no more than 1/3 of their monthly income on rent. That number stays fairly consistent across the US, so generally it’s a good rule of thumb. Healthy finances and a steady income are attractive attributes in renters. At Vintage Real Estate Services we crunch the numbers to make sure tenants aren’t getting in over their heads by taking on too much financial responsibility: as a landlord, it is your duty to select a tenant that can handle it. You can ask for pay stubs, copies of invoices, screenshots of direct deposits, or recent bank statements, but you’ll want some documented proof. Trust us on this: proof matters!
4. Check Their Rental History
There’s a lot to be said for a clean rental history. Renters that have struggled with evictions or owe back rent to previous landlords might not be the most attractive tenants. How would you go about finding out? Where would you start? There are ways to find out if they have any evictions on their record, unpaid rents to previous landlords, or any other bad rental history. You can look for it yourself – or you could partner with Vintage Real Estate Services and let us dig for you.
5. Run A Criminal Background Check: Do they have any recent Felonies or Misdemeanors?
We’ve all made mistakes. None (aside from Ms. Dolly Parton herself) can claim otherwise. A background check is still one of the most important steps of the screening process, for largely the same reason it’s important to see documentation of a renter’s financial health: it’s just a bit too tempting to say “take my word for it”. Background checks are standard, cost-effective, and essential for getting a sense of how past actions might influence future ones. Companies like HireRight can do this for a nominal fee.
6. Pet Screening: Have you screened any/all their pets too?
Did a tenant claim to have a Yorkie, but it turned out to be a mini-Shetland pony? Don’t get duped! You’ll want to confirm breed, request shot records, and speak to the previous landlord about the animal’s disposition. Social media is also a great way to double-check that the puppy who’ll be moving into your home is the one listed on the application!
Renter Screening in Tampa
Anyone can approve a tenant, but not anyone can take these steps, every time, for every tenant. That is why we are here! Let us handle the burden of finding and screening renters so you can just relax – and collect those checks! Get in touch with a member of our team.