How to Screen a Tenant

Finding a qualified and responsible tenant in New York City is crucial for any property owner.  Screening tenants effectively helps mitigate late rent payments, property damage, and disruptive behavior risks.  Here at MD Squared Property Group, we understand the importance of a well-defined screening process, and we’re here to equip you with the right tools for a seamless tenancy process. to find your ideal NYC renter.

Benefits of Having a Screening Process Strategy

A thorough tenant screening process offers several advantages for property owners:

Reduced Risk: By carefully evaluating potential tenants, you minimize the likelihood of encountering financial or behavioral issues down the line.

Peace of Mind: Knowing you’ve rented to a responsible tenant fosters a sense of security for you and your other tenants and lets you focus on managing your property confidently.

Long-Term Success: Finding a tenant who values your property and pays rent consistently contributes to the long-term financial viability of your investment.

Key Elements of Effective Tenant Screening

Our recommended screening process incorporates the following essential steps:

Detailed Application Form

A well-designed rental application form should gather crucial information like contact details, employment history, and rental references.  This allows you to shortlist candidates who meet your minimum qualifications. Consider including questions about occupancy expectations, preferred lease term, and any history of evictions or lease violations.

Credit Check

A credit report provides valuable insight into a potential tenant’s financial responsibility. While not the sole determining factor, a history of on-time payments and a healthy credit score are positive indicators.  Some states and localities may have restrictions on the minimum credit score you can require. Familiarize yourself with fair housing laws to ensure compliance.

Verification of References

Contacting past landlords is an important step.  This allows you to confirm the information provided by the applicant and gain valuable insights into their tenancy history, such as on-time rent payments and proper care of the property. Prepare a list of questions for past landlords that delve into the tenant’s payment history, adherence to lease agreements, and overall demeanor as a tenant.

Employment Verification

Verifying a tenant’s employment and income ensures they have the financial means to afford the rent comfortably. Contact their employer to confirm their current position and salary. This step provides reassurance that rent payments will be consistent. Consider establishing a minimum income threshold that is three to four times the monthly rent.

Tenant Interview

Schedule a well-structured interview with potential tenants. Prepare a list of relevant screening questions for tenants about their lifestyle, expectations, and reason for moving. The interview allows you to assess their communication skills, sense of responsibility, and overall suitability for your rental property.  Here are some examples of interview questions:

  • “Tell me a little bit about yourself and what you’re looking for in a rental property.”
  • “What is your expected move-in date?”
  • “Do you have any pets? If so, can you tell me more about them?”
  • “How long do you intend to stay in the apartment?”
  • “Can you describe your past experience as a tenant?”

What Not To Ask Potential Tenants

To comply with Fair Housing laws and avoid questions that could be discriminatory or perceived as discriminatory to potential tenants, make sure not to ask about:

  • Disabilities
  • Religion
  • Age
  • Place of origin
  • Sexual orientation
  • Marital Status
  • Race

 

Requirements that may be evidence of discrimination include:

  • Requiring medical documentation (unless there is a request an accommodation for a disability)
  • Requiring a marriage certificate
  • Requiring a passport, birth certificate, or any document that reveals age, race, national origin, or alienage/citizenship status
  • Requiring a picture with the application.  An applicant can be asked to provide government-issued identification but this requirement must be applied consistently to all applicants and should not be restricted to a particular form of identification (e.g., a driver license).

 

For more information on Fair Housing, click here.

Additional Tips for a Smoother Screening Process

Consider these additional strategies to strengthen your screening process:

Social Media Screening

Social media profiles can offer a glimpse into a potential tenant’s personality and lifestyle. However, it’s crucial to adhere to fair housing regulations and avoid using social media information as the sole basis for a decision. Focus on publicly available information that may raise concerns about property damage or disruptive behavior.

Clearly Defined Pet Policy

Clearly outline your pet policy in the application and during the interview. If you allow pets, consider requesting veterinary references and proof of up-to-date vaccinations.

Following Your Gut

Throughout the screening process, pay close attention to any red flags or inconsistencies in the information provided by the applicant.  Trust your intuition – if something doesn’t feel right, it might be best to explore other options.

Final Thoughts

By implementing a comprehensive tenant screening process, you significantly increase your chances of finding a responsible and reliable tenant who will appreciate and care for your property.  We have extensive experience navigating the NYC rental market at MD Squared Property Group.  We can guide you through every step of the tenant screening process, ensuring you find the perfect fit for your investment.  Contact us today, and let’s work together to achieve your NYC rental goals!

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