Friday, March 30, 2007

How to Conduct a Tenant Background Check

Most landlords have experienced the wild Saturday night party when neighbors must summon the police to quiet a rowdy crowd. They are equally familiar with walking into an apartment or commercial space after a tenant has vacated only to find the premises in shambles, requiring almost total renovation. In both residential and commercial leases, there is a potential for lost income resulting from the time to complete extensive repairs, or if a tenant breaks a lease and suddenly vacates. These are nightmare scenarios that can be minimized by conducting background checks before renting an apartment, condo, home or commercial space to a prospective tenant.

The steps presented in this article will reduce the dangers of facing later evictions or costly repairs.


The implementation of a tenant screening process will minimize future tenant problems. By checking on the background of a potential renter and thereby establishing their qualification as a tenant, the risk of experiencing the scenarios noted above becomes far lower. Not only do bad tenants cost owners and managers money, their actions can also bring unforeseen liabilities for a tenant’s actions.

The Telephone Interview: Often the first contact with a prospective tenant is by telephone, especially if the rental has been advertised in a local newspaper. This is the time for the landlord or a representative to ask the right questions that initiate the qualification process. Questions to be asked to residential as well as commercial renters should include:
  • Name of prospective tenant
  • Telephone contact number
  • Date prospective tenant wishes to occupy premises
  • Does the prospective tenant have landlord references?
Questions to be asked to residential renters should also include:

  • Reason for choosing to move
  • Number of people in family
  • Number of children, if any, and their ages
  • Type and number of pets, if any
  • Is anyone in the family a smoker?
In addition to asking the above questions, the landlord or representative should inform the prospective tenant of the monthly rent, security deposit or other up-front fees, as this often will eliminate the need for further screening if the person cannot afford the price and fees being quoted.

Personal Interview: If both parties are satisfied following the telephone interview, it is normal for a prospective tenant to wish to see the property. This also affords the owner or representative an opportunity to meet the party in question. Much can be gleaned from this interview.

Read complete "How to Screen Tenants," article

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