Pre-screening your tenants is the best method of ensuring occupants meet your minimum requirements.
Why Pre-Screen Tenants
Let’s say you have advertised your bachelor suite condominium. You check with your condo bylaws and Minimum Housing Standards Act and discover only one person is allowed to live in your suite, and no pets are permitted in the unit.
Your advertising is going well, and you receive a text from an interested potential tenant. You set up a showing and drive out to meet them. During the showing, the applicant says he is looking for a cheap condo where five of his taxi drivers can live together. They will be sleeping in shifts, and one of them has two birds, another has a cat.
You’ve just wasted 90 minutes of your time and a tank of gas.
Setting minimum tenant pre-screening criteria and pre-screening your tenants will save you time and effort and reduce your frustration.
Pre-screening tenants in 5 easy steps
As a landlord, you have enough on your plate without spending extra time on tenants who don’t qualify. Much of your workload can be reduced and streamlined by pre-screening your tenants in 5 easy steps.
Step 1. Compose your pre-qualifying tenant screening questions.
Do this ahead of time and have them handy. Here are my top 6.
- How many pets do you have? What breed, weight, age?
- How many people will be living in the property?
- What date do you want to move in?
- What length of a lease are you looking seeking? Example: 6 months, 12 months, 2 years etc.
- Do you mind telling me why you are moving from your current home?
- If you see the property and decide to move forward with an application, can you verify your income.
Step 2. Arrange a phone call.
Conversations are a great way to ask these 5 questions before committing to the showing. A conversation gives you a feel for the potential tenant and allows you to assess whether they are someone you feel comfortable with and want to rent your property.
Step 3. Provide details about your rental application process.
It’s good practice to inform tenants in advance about your application process. When it comes to application forms and leases, most tenants don’t appreciate surprises.
While pre-screening your tenants, let them know about the application form that asks for two landlord references, two work references, and a credit check. Inform them you will also request a copy of a government-issued identification and a recent (30 day) pay stub. If they are not working, a letter from an accountant or bank manager confirming funds is required. At this point, check-in and ask if they are ok with this process.
Step 4. Schedule a time/date.
Suppose they say yes, set up the time and date for the showing. If they start arguing with you about your process, politely let them know that this is the process you follow, and you do not make exceptions. Let them move on. If they refuse to follow your process, they are not a good candidate for your property.
After you’ve chosen a date/time for the showing, send a text confirming the date, time, and address. Also, ask for a text or call one hour before the appointment to ensure they are coming. Make it clear; if you do not receive a text or call, you will not drive down to meet them for the showing. This confirmation will save you a lot of time and mileage weeding out the no-show.
Step 5. Ask the same pre-screening questions.
During the showing, ask the same questions you asked during the pre-screen phone call. Typically, when you meet in person, people get busy talking and tell you all kinds of additional information. That’s what you want. This is your chance to check for data consistency and form your impression of whether they would be suitable tenants. Remember to ask open-ended questions and let them do the talking. Your role is to listen.
Online vs. paper applications
If you both want to proceed with an application, remind them of the application process requirements. Go over any specific rental conditions such as Cannabis use, pets, bylaws, property maintenance inspections, tenant insurance, application processing fees, and move-in fees such as elevator booking costs, etc. You can then provide your application form.
Some tenants are comfortable completing their application online, and others want to complete a paper application and hand it to you in person. Cybersecurity is a real threat and having a plan A (online application) and a plan B (paper application with FOIP disposal procedures in place) is standard practice.
Won’t this process scare tenants off?
It has been my experience that tenants who are happy and willing to complete the application process make good renters and good renters are not afraid of the application process. People show their true colours fairly quickly, and the pre-screening process is an excellent opportunity to collect information about your future tenant and assess their character. Learning how to pre-screen your tenants in 5 easy steps will fast-track your application process and save you time and money.
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Nelda Schulte is a property investor who is passionate about helping investors who self-manage have profitable investment properties through resources and education. If you struggle with the wrong landlord forms, or worse yet, no landlord forms check out Nelda’s 10 Essential Editable Landlord Forms that help you separate the good tenants from the bad and increase your property’s profitability.