Landlord Blog

Education and news for smart DIY landlords!

3 Ways to Screen Potential Tenants

Photo By Scott Maxwell via

As a landlord, your goal is to rent out your property to the right tenants - those who are credit-worthy, able to pay, and are capable of caring for your rental property. This is where screening applicants and evaluating which of them should you rent out to become really important. Sometimes, you will need to choose between two qualified applicants. This article will provide you with the necessary steps in determining the best tenants.

On this topic, several questions arise:  

1. What are the areas you need to look into during the screening process?

2. How do you evaluate a tenant's credit report?

3. When speaking with a tenant's employer over the phone, why is it better to offer information that's on the application and wait for confirmation rather than to immediately ask an open-ended question? 

4. What are questions you need to ask a prior landlord about a tenant?

Let's talk about the first of these 4 questions. What are the areas you need to look into during the screening process?

  • Credit - Check if your applicant has credit issues so that if he has a poor credit score, you will be able to do something about it like ask for a higher deposit or have a cosigner present. You can visit to pull a credit report of your applicant. You are allowed to pass the reasonable cost of pulling the report on to your applicant. 
  • Employment - You want to make sure that the person is employed. Confirm whether the information about the tenant's employment is true in his application. For example, if the tenant has written the information that he is employed as a programmer, you need to contact his employer and verify whether this is true. Verify the tenant's length of employment, and his employment status (full-time/part-time). Ask whether the tenant is worth renting out to. 
  • Prior landlord - Call the tenant's current landlord and prior landlord. Their feedback on your potential tenant will give you a good idea of how he will behave while living on your property. However, also put in mind that a current landlord who wants a tenant off of his property may not tell the entire truth about the tenant. Calling a previous landlord (two landlords ago) is a good practice since that landlord is most likely to be honest because he has no personal interest in the tenant at this point. 

If the tenant/applicant has no real credit history or a not-so-high income but has a friend/family member who is willing to cover part of the rental, that person can be a co-signer. The co-signer needs to fill-up a separate application form. 

Lastly, make sure to DOCUMENT your search. Take down and save all your notes! 

For the rest of this lesson, existing Landlord Prep students should log-in to the module entitled Between Tenants - Tenant Applications - Credit Check and Application Screening

Not a member yet? Join the Landlord Prep: Video E-Course and How-To Tutorials so you can access this section, download a copy of the tenant application form and other relevant forms, and get the complete DIY landlording course. This will help you stay knowledgeable and confident as a landlord.