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How to Screen Tenants at a Distance

As the coronavirus pandemic continues to alter our daily lives, avoiding other people becomes the most effective way to stop its spread. But for landlords, how can you make tenant screening and social distancing work together as one? All you have to do is take advantage of the internet! Continue reading and I’ll show you how.

1. Send the prospective tenant a prequalification form

After a prospective tenant inquires about your property, send a prequalification form to be filled up. You can do this via email or by letter. It is better to send softcopies to avoid the infectious spread of viruses.

Include their previous landlord, social media, company, and state registry information to be filled up with as these entries will help you later on.

2. Ask for a scanned copy of the prospective renter’s ID

One way to prove the legitimacy of a prospective tenant’s identity is through an identification card. You can ask your tenant to provide two or more official ID card scans. Good examples are state, driver’s license, passport, and company IDs. Ask them to send the scanned image via email in PNG or JPEG form.

These IDs are very helpful for cross-checking especially if you include personal information spaces to be filled up in the prequalification form. This makes documentation easier too! Compile the filled up application document and scanned image into one file folder and tenant background checking becomes easier.

3. Use social media as a pre-screening tool

Once you’ve verified a prospective tenant’s identity, check their social media page. This will give you an idea of their character and conduct. Although, it is not advisable to consider hearsay from third parties. It is also important not to discriminate based on race, gender, religion, familial status, ethnicity, or disability. Keep your judgment based on their individual character alone.

4. Meet virtually for pre-screening

Zoom, Skype, and FaceTime are useful virtual communication tools. This will help you verify their physical appearance from the ID scans they provide. If they do accept the call but refuse to show their face due to “some” issues, that could be a red flag of a problem tenant. Worse, a scammer.

A video call will also show you a tenant’s character. Observe their manner of speaking, politeness, and ask some questions. You can tell from here if they’ll be a model, nightmare, or an honest tenant.

5. Contact the previous landlord

When your tenant gives the contact information of their previous landlord, call or text their number. You can ask the landlord about their opinion about the tenant. Does the tenant pay on time? Did the tenant take good care of the property? As long as the question helps in letting you decide whether to accept the tenant or not, ask their previous landlord.

6. Run your tenant’s credit screening report last

The reason why this is last is because of the COVID-19 pandemic. As a lot of jobs are being laid off, some tenants might leave their previous rented abode due to financial hardships. Some might have paid rent late in the past few months and some may have failed to pay in full. These aren’t necessary deal-breakers but rather a test for you to dig deeper and identify those who might take advantage of your sympathy.

One way to help you make a solid decision on this is to go contact the tenant’s previous landlord again. Ask if they worked out a deal with the previous tenant. You can also ask if the tenant usually pays in full and on time before the pandemic. Lastly, ask for a personal opinion about the tenant’s financial capabilities.

Virtual tenant screening has a lot of similarities with normal tenant screening. It just lacks the in-person interaction. So take advantage of email and file sending. Utilize communication and social media platforms to get to know your prospective tenants better. If a red flag shows up, get skeptical and keep digging until you arrive at a solid decision!

If you’re ready, make Landlord Prep your go-to resource for landlording education. Here, we offer a complete DIY landlording course to get you on the right track. Join our academy today. If you want, you can check out Flavia’s real estate investing webinar first!