5 Steps for Thorough Tenant Screening

Thorough tenant screening includes creating tenant criteria, conducting pre-screening interview calls, collecting rental applications, running rental background checks, and following up with tenant references.

two people going over paperwork on clipboard

Published February 06, 2019   •   3 minute read

Tenant screening entails the evaluation of potential tenants by landlords and property managers to determine whether or not they are likely to hold up their end of a lease or rental agreement. Neglecting to conduct such due diligence leaves landlords vulnerable to significant inconveniences, including missed payments, property damage, lawsuits, and more.

5 Steps for Thorough Tenant Screening

1. Create appropriate tenant criteria for your listing. Be sure to include the following:

  • Property Information
    • Smoking Policy
    • Pet Policy
  • Rental History
    • # of Evictions
    • Noise Complaints
    • Broken Lease Agreements, Etc.
  • Income Requirement (Should Be Appropriate for the Property Offering)
    • % of Gross Monthly Income
  • Employment History
    • Months Employed With Current Employer or Within the Same Field of Work
  • Credit History
    • Bankruptcy Discharge
    • Credit Score
    • Rental Collection/Judgement
    • Tax Liens
  • Public Records
    • Criminal Records
    • Address Records

2. Conduct pre-screening phone interviews.

At the start of your renter search, you’re most prone to deal with a diluted applicant pool. Concentrate that pool before collecting official rental applications by simply conducting a short, 30-minute phone interview with interested parties to determine whether or not they may be a good fit. Just be sure to review legal lines of questioning in your state before doing so. We suggest keeping your tone conversational, to avoid lawfulness coming into question.

3. Collect rental applications.

We suggest charging an application fee. While it will likely lower the overall number of applicants, this often helps improve the quality of those you’ll deal with. Anyone who isn’t serious about renting your property, or who doubts their own qualifications, is more likely to be deterred by the prospect of an application fee than someone confident in their financial status who fully intends to follow through with the move.

4. Run a rental background check.

A rental background check will endow you with a more well-rounded understanding of your prospective renters’ past actions, beyond the information they willingly disclose on an application. This will include a detailed credit check and a criminal background check, among other telling insights.

A credit background check enables you to make decisions based upon the details of someone’s credit history, rather than their credit score alone. Information for the credit check is mostly pulled from these three major credit bureaus:

  • TransUnion
  • Equifax
  • Experian

Other reports that are part of a full rental background check include, but are not limited to:

  • Address History
  • Employment History
  • Public Records
  • Eviction Records

5. Call tenant references to confirm reported tenant details.

Tenant references may include past landlords, employers, or family/friends. Here are some appropriate questions to ask each:

Past Landlords

  1. What is the address of the property that my prospective tenant occupied?
  2. Were there additional names listed on the lease? If so, whose?
  3. Did the tenant’s occupancy last the full duration of the lease agreement?
  4. What was the cost of rent?
  5. Were there any complaints about the tenant from neighbors?


  1. Can you confirm that this tenant is employed with your company?
  2. For how long has this tenant been in your employ?
  3. Have you ever had to discipline this tenant at work, for any reason?
  4. Does the tenant generally show up to work on time?
  5. What is the tenant’s monthly salary?


  1. Is the tenant a smoker?
  2. For how long have you known the tenant?
  3. Can you describe the tenant’s overall character?
  4. What does the tenant like to do in their spare time?
  5. Does the tenant have pets?

How BCS Helps: Real Estate

As a landlord, your risk exposure is compounded with each new tenant you grant occupancy. To ensure the adequacy of insurance measures taken to protect yourself and your tenants, you'll need to track insurance proofs to make sure they don't have any hidden coverage exclusions.

That's where BCS comes in. Our platform, the BCS App, simplifies insurance tracking so you can focus your energy on finding the best tenants and being the best landlord you can be. 

For more information about real estate screening and insurance tracking with Business Credentialing Services, shoot us an email or schedule a demo, today. 

Leave a Comment