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Online Rental Application and Tenant Screening Guide

Ready to go green and ditch pen & paper applications? Tired of tenants with no integrity? This article discusses the benefits of leveraging online rental application forms and thorough tenant screening reports for DIY landlords and small scale property owners.

As a landlord, there is nothing better than having good, qualified tenants that pay rent on time and treat your property as their own. Unfortunately, not everyone is a model renter and if you’ve ever had a bad one you know firsthand how difficult life as a landlord can be at times.

One bad tenant can cause a variety of issues including not paying rent, damaging your property, and refusing to vacate, resulting in lost time and money for landlords.

For example, the cost of an eviction process can range between $500 and $20,000 depending on the state and complexity of your situation. That is why it is crucial you get to know your potential tenants before letting anyone move in. This process starts with a solid rental application form.

Use a Thorough Rental Application Form

A good rental application form shouldn’t be too long or complex, but it should gather all of the important information about your potential renters while minimizing the risk of compromising sensitive applicant personal information.

Asking for your applicant’s address history, income, employment information, and references will help you to weed out any unqualified renters and can be used to take the additional steps outlined later in this article.

While most applications ask for sensitive personal information such a SSN for the landlord to be able to run criminal background and credit checks, some applicants are reluctant to provide such information in written form.

Also, many landlords don’t want to take on the responsibility of gathering that information and the liability of keeping it safe. You can avoid this issue and save yourself time by using an online tenant screening tool, which will allow your applicants to enter their own information as well as pay for the screening report themselves.

Run a Criminal Background Check and Obtain a Recent Credit Report

The first thing you should always do after receiving a qualified application is run a thorough tenant screen that will include a criminal background check and a full, recent credit report.

A comprehensive background check will detail your applicant’s criminal history and eviction records using reliable source data with broad national coverage. Background checks specifically designed for individual landlords should come in an easy to digest, clear format.

A recent credit report will show you an applicant’s credit score, credit history, current debt levels, and potentially even their rent payment history.

While a good quality tenant screening will reveal most of what you need to know, it does not paint the full picture. To really get to know your applicants, there are a few additional steps every landlord should take that can make the difference between the right or wrong fit.

Ask for Recent Pay Stubs

Your renter’s main duty is to pay rent in full and on time. Understanding your applicant’s income level will help you determine their ability to cover the monthly rent. Because this is the leading factor in your renter’s ability to pay rent, you should verify it by asking for recent pay stubs as opposed to taking your applicant’s word for it.

Having a paycheck to paycheck renter will often lead to payment problems and a good rule of thumb is that your renter should make at least three times the total rent expense before taxes. So if the monthly rent is $1,500, your renter should make at least $4,500 in gross income per month to comfortably cover the rent.

Contact Previous Landlords

Talking to previous landlords who were in your shoes is a great way to know how your applicant has behaved as a renter in the past.

You should call the most recent landlord and ask the following questions:

  • Did they consistently pay rent on time?

  • Do they owe you any money still?

  • Were they able to get their full deposit back?

  • Did they damage the property in any significant manner?

  • Did they treat the unit and their neighbors with respect?

  • What is the reason they no longer live there?

  • Would you accept them as a tenant again?

These types of questions will give you more insight than a credit score ever will.

Reach Out to Their Current Employer

Talking to your applicant’s current employer will confirm that they actually hold a job at the place of employment indicated in the rental application.

This step might also shed more light on the character of your applicant and verify that they are in good standing at work. An employer speaking highly of an applicant is a great indicator of a good potential tenant.

Consider Interviewing your Applicants

After you’ve checked all of the above boxes, consider talking to the applicant directly to learn more about them.

You can ask questions such as:

  • What is the reason you are looking to move?

  • How long do you plan on staying in the area?

  • Do you plan to bring in any roommates?

  • What does your typical day look like between work an home?

  • Do you smoke?

  • Play instruments or listen to loud music?

  • Do you plan on making any significant changes to the property?

If they have pets, you can use this opportunity to learn more about them.

Be Diligent in Your Process

Sometimes it won’t be possible for you to take all of these steps if for example, the applicant is a first-time renter, new to a city without landing a job yet or other scenarios that might make things more difficult to evaluate. However, you should always screen your applicants and take these additional steps whenever possible to ensure you are protecting your property and maximizing your investment.

When it comes to choosing the right tenant, the more you know the better.

Use Property Management Software for Online Rental Applications and Tenant Screening

You can easily screen renters by obtaining a background check and credit report through Zuby. Our property management app is free to use, and we offer Naborly screening tool right on our app.

Sending an online application and screening request is as simple as filling out the applicant’s information and a the rent amount. Landlords receive a comprehensive and clear report that summarizes everything landlords should know about their applicants, helping you make the right decisions faster. Landlords only have to attach the lease contract & tenant report with application and the tenant can agree in-app.

We hope you get top tier tenants!