The following tips can help you filter bad tenants from the very beginning stages of leasing rental units. By incorporating a few strategies in your leasing process, you will be able to stop tenants from passing through the lease stage and becoming a problematic resident in the future:
1) Build Effective Advertisements – An effective and professional ad can serve as a screening method for tenants. Often times, the advertisement for your available rental unit(s) is the first impression to prospective tenants. Taking the time to ensure the ad is professional and thorough indicates that a property is well-managed and selective in tenant screening. An ad that is not well designed with grammatical errors can send a subliminal message to tenants that the property is not professionally managed and does not take the time to properly screen tenants. Take the time to utilize the many free or economical resources available online to create a well-designed ad. Make sure photos of the property are crisp and clear, not blurry. Have someone proof read the ad before release. If you are doing a media (radio/tv/web) ad, chose an individual who speaks in a clear and articulate manner for the voice over. Always include contact information on the ad that a prospective tenant can use to inquire further about the property; and make sure that the contact information is current and active.
2) Maintain a Consistent Phone Screening Process – A prospective tenant that has a negative past rental history will often call a property first to get an idea of how loose the management/landlord is with leasing standards. Without a proper and thorough screening process, these prospective tenants will move forward in the leasing process knowing that screening is not taken seriously for the property. They may try to negotiate aspects of the lease contract by phone, such as: length of lease, deposit requirements, references needed, etc in order to compensate for the their irresponsible behavior. Make sure that a step-by-step process is strictly adhered to for screening tenants both by phone and in person. Click here for information on conducting a proper tenant screening process.
3) Check References ALWAYS – Reference checking can take some time to complete, especially is references listed on an application can not be reached. Listed “bogus” reference or “personal” references on an application is a key strategy for less that desirable prospective tenants. Ensure that you always check references and require that the references be available for a brief phone interview within one week of lease application submission. If the tenant is serious about leasing the space, they will make sure their references know to expect a call from you. Additionally, it is a good practice to require at least one reference be from a former landlord.
4) Only Accept Fully Completed Applications – If a prospective tenant comes to visit the property and decides to complete an application during that visit, ensure the application is clear, legible and complete before taking the time to “run” it for approval. If there is information that the prospective tenant does not have on hand while completing the application, ask them to either take it with them and bring it back, or offer to keep it in an “to be completed” file for them until they can return and complete the application in its entirety. Problematic prospective tenants will seek to avoid putting information on an application to avoid screening/reference checking. When the prospective tenant completes an application, provide them with a list of property/unit rules/agreements and take the time to review each aspect of the agreement with them.