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Dear Patty - Tenant Screening

Friday, January 04, 2013  
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Dear Patty,

I’m new to this whole "property management” thing. I’ve got a few places to manage now, and I need to find some tenants quick! My question is this: Do I need to do any kind of tenant screening or application processing?


Hi Gladys,

The short answer here is a resounding "yes.” There are many schools of thought in our business, but I believe that tenant screening is one of the (if not the) most important aspects of our job.

How tenant screenings are accomplished and/or how applications are processed surely varies from one company to the next, but there are a few parts of the process shared by every successful property manager. These include:

Establishing Resident Selection Criteria

There should be a written policy that lets everyone know what you’re looking for in a new tenant. Are you going to require a minimum credit score? Fine. Not going to accept sex offenders as tenants? Great. Once you’ve decided on your requirements, create a clearly defined Resident Selection Criteria document that lets applicants know what will make them a successful applicant as well as what will keep them from being one.

Adhering To Resident Selection Criteria

The key word here is consistency. Property managers make a big mistake when their office lacks policy manuals or documents and an equally big one when they have policies in place but fail to follow them on a consistent basis. You must not only abide by fair housing laws and treat everyone equally and without regard to race, color, etc. You must also ensure that you hold every applicant to the same credit score standards and such.

Using Clear Screening Methods

Leave no room for confusion when evaluating your prospects, and don’t try to make any of the process more complicated than it needs to be. When applicants know exactly criteria they have to meet for application approval, there’ll be fewer arguments should they not meet it. And if you are well-versed in each step of the process, you’ll have no trouble explaining (or defending) any of the approval/denial decisions you make and no trouble getting quality tenants for the owners who’ve hired you.

Thank you for writing, Gladys. Now, get out there and find those great tenants!


"Patty the Property Manager” appears courtesy of the ORRA Property Management Subcommittee. Readers are invited to submit property management related questions to Patty by sending an e-mail to

The ORRA Property Management Subcommittee provides this property-management advice column as a service to ORRA members. The column is intended to provide a general understanding, not as a substitute for individual legal consultation. The column should not be relied upon in specific situations without consulting a real estate attorney.

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