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Dear Patty - Tenant Screening

Thursday, April 02, 2015  
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Dear Patty,

Choosing the right tenant for my clients’ properties is kinda scary! How can I make sure I’m recommending someone worthy of my clients’ trust with their house?

--Not a TSA Screener!


Tenant selection is one of the most important duties of a property manager. We all know that tenants who pay rent on time, keep the property well maintained, and are respectable make us look like true professionals in the eyes of an owner! On the counter, if you have been in the business more than a day you will know that it’s not always that easy, and a majority of owners hire us to put up with the day-to-day tenant hassle. Let’s face it, if every tenant were a good one, we would all be out of a job! It is when the dirt is churned that a property manager shows their true worth.

Even in an imperfect world I, as a property manager, do my best to ensure the highest quality tenants living in owners investments. Below are a few quick guidelines I follow when securing new tenants:

Phone Interview Questions

1. The first questions I always ask a tenant is if they are ready, willing, and able.

a. Ready to move in 30 days or less if approved?
b. Willing to sign a lease for a specified amount of time?
c. Able to afford rent and all costs associated with the rental property?

2. How many people will be residing in the home? Any pets? Make sure the tenants conform to state laws and any breed restriction lists!

3. What is the amount and source of the tenant’s income? A general rule is that the household gross monthly income should be three times the monthly rent. If the tenant does not meet the income requirement I require a qualified cosigner fill out an application in order for the prospect to move forward with the home.

4. Are there any issues with credit, criminal, or rental history?

5. Have they driven by the property? I recommend that all prospects drive by the rental first just to make sure the location and surrounding area would be a good fit for them. Searching for a house is a big deal and is not like shopping for a loaf of bread at the grocery store! If prospects are not willing to take the time to drive by the property before seeing the interior then I am not wasting mine!

Home Showing Observations

First impressions are a big deal and even more so in property management. While we basically run all of the same applications and background checks, property management is also a job judged on relationships. You can learn a lot by how a tenant carries him or herself by paying attention to detail! Below are a few things I watch for during a face-to-face showing.

1. What does the prospect’s car look like? Believe it or notm how people treat their cars is usually how they treat their house. If the car looks like a dumpster you can almost bet money that the house will look that way too!

2. How are their manners?

a. Did they wipe their feet before entering?
b. Were they pleasant to talk to?
c. Was there a smell of smoke from clothing?

3. Were the prospects late to the showing? This is a big one for me as I am a property manager with a schedule! If a prospect fails to be on time within 15 minutes for our first face-to-face meeting it makes me thinks they will be late on other things through their tenancy such as rent, returning calls, etc.

These are just a few of the essential tips a property manager should refer to when tenant screening, but in the end each manager has their own unique selection style. The bottom line is to be as professional, detailed, and personable with your new prospects as they may be your next qualified tenants!


"Patty the Property Manager” appears courtesy of the ORRA Property Management Council (formerly a subcommittee). Readers are invited to submit property management related questions to Patty by sending an e-mail to the council's staff liaison:

The ORRA Property Management Council 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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