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Chicago Property Management Blog

Three Critical Tenant Screening Tips

Three Critical Tenant Screening Tips

When a landlord screens potential tenants themselves, paying attention to certain red flags can save them future headaches. By thoroughly vetting applicants, property owners can get a better sense of who might occupy their rental home. Will they pay on time… or at all? Will they trash the house? Or maybe cause neighborhood or legal trouble for you as the homeowner? Protect yourself and your assets! Below, we list three critical tenant screening tips that just might save you from problem tenants becoming your problem.

1. Do a Deep Rental History

Upon asking for rental history, most landlords will call the current property owner. But this doesn’t get the full story. If their current landlord wants rid of problem tenants, they’ll say great things about them so you’ll take them. They may tell you the applicants always pay on time and are quiet and incredibly neat - totally perfect renters. 

To get the real story, go back to at least one the landlord before the current one. They no longer have to deal with the applicants and can freely tell you what they think of them. Also, credit checks can have up to seven years of rental history, including evictions. Investigate!

Another school of thought that we like to do at GC Realty & Development, LLC is request proof of payment history that creates a paper trail.  This is not hand written receipts but cleared checks, electronic transfer snapshots, or bank statement transactions.  Follow the money and it tells a story.

2. Look at Specific Credit Score History

Many applicants, particularly those in challenged areas, may not have high credit scores. That doesn’t mean the applicant doesn’t pay their bills on time or is a bad person. Extenuating circumstances can leave unpaid medical bills or credit card debt on reports. 

Rather than worrying about the overall number, look at more important payment histories. For example, if the applicant needs a car to get to work, do they pay their car payments on time? Experian allows consumers with thin history to “boost” their scores by including streaming, cell phone, and utility payment history.

3. Don’t Underestimate the Importance of In-Person Interviews

Rental and credit histories can weed out early red flags, but you can still get a lemon of a tenant. Often a property owner’s spidey-senses can pick up things not captured on their background checks. By meeting the applicants at the property, you can pick up on subtle warning signs of potential problems like: 

  • Do they show up on time to look at the property? That’s often an indication of how timely they’ll be with rent. 

  • Are they complaining about their current and/or former landlords? Don’t think for a moment that they won’t badmouth you, too, which ultimately could impact your reputation. 

  • Are they respectfully asking questions or making demands? Look for graciousness and a vested interest in place. “Place is great for me and kids” or “My aunt lives down the block” are great signs. 

  • If they drove to meet you, take a quick glance into their car. Is it trashed or does it look reasonably clean? Don’t take it as a red flag if you see a small mess, especially if they have kids. But a filthy car could indicate how they’ll treat your property. 

  • How much time do they spend looking at the rental? Do they walk in and three seconds later turn around and say “yup, I’ll take it.” Red Flag! Worse still, do they call and say they will fill out an application and take it sight unseen? Also Red Flag!

By using these screening tips, you can potentially avoid untold problems with your rental house or flat. Contact our experts at GC Realty & Development, LLC for more helpful tips for rental property owners. 

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