Top 10 Tips: Guerrilla Tenant Screening Tips for Landlords

A Property Manager’s Field Guide to Successful
Tenant Screening Policies & Procedures

“Tenant Screening by far has to be the most important responsibility
of landlords to avoid ending up in housing court.”

– Chief Justice Timothy B. Sullivan

It has been said by many landlords and other rental and real estate professionals, much wiser than I, that the primary function of a successful rental business is the process of an effective system to screen for good residents. Having the wrong resident in your property can be the beginning of a downward spiral that can be hard to recover from financially, and take too much time to reposition the property to start to attract good tenants again. Result can be the ultimate failure of the property to perform leaving the landlord with little other option to sell the property because they can no longer afford to operate the building.

Bad tenants can result in lost revenues, battered budgets, lack of funding for needed cash flow to make repairs, and the start of a mass exodus of good residents leaving your property to get away from neighbors that never should have gotten through the doors of your rental property in the first place. Having good residents makes for a much more pleasant rental experience for everyone at the table. Residents will like and respect their neighbors, good residents obey the house policies, pay rent on time, take care of the property, and take pride in living in your property, which they call, their home.

In this post I will walk you through several punch lists to be on guard for to seek out, select, and rent to the best possible residents to give you the best possible rental experience as a landlord. These top ten tips will walk you through one step at a time to better understand and evaluate what you are hearing, being told by a prospect, and what to look for to read between the lines to determine if this applicant is the best fit for your rental community.

So lets get started.


Are you prepared to screen tenants?

  • State Building Code: 780 CMR
  • State Sanitary Code: 105 CMR 410
  • Tenant/Landlord: MGL 186 ss 15B, 93A, 139 19
  • Discrimination: Title VIII of the CRA of 1968
  • Information Protection: 201 CRM 17.00 & 93H
  • Americans With Disabilities Act
  • Section 8 & Housing Authorities


Why is screening so important?

  • Who Is A Good Tenant?
  • What Are Your Rental Criteria?
  • What Are Your Income Criteria?
  • Do You Allow Evicted Residents to Rent?
  • Do You Pull a Credit Report? When?
  • What Are Your Credit Score Requirements?
  • What Is Their Credit Payment History?
  • Smoking or Non-Smoking?
  • Pet (Animal) Policy?
  • CORI & SCORI Requirements?


Planned Precision Criteria Pre-Screening

  • Be Consistent with ALL Applicants
  • Always Use the Exact Same Process
  • Pre-Qualify Income Requirements
  • Ask Specific Questions
  • Establish Standard Income Requirements
  • Get ALL Their Contact Information
  • Full Names For Everyone 18 Years Old And Over
  • Current Address
  • Current Phone Number
  • Current E-mail


Ask ALL Applicants Consistent Questions

  • How many people are moving in?
  • Who is moving in?
  • What is your combined monthly income?
  • When do you want to move in?
  • Where do you live now?
  • What do you pay for rent?
  • How long have you lived there?
  • Have you given your notice to move?
  • Was there any one event that made you feel that way?
  • What do you like and dislike about where you currently live?
  • If there is one thing you could change about where you live now…what would it be?
  • Are you finding your search for a new home stressful?
  • How does that make you feel?
  • What do you like/dislike about some of the other rentals you’ve currently visited in your search?
  • What did you like about your last landlord?
  • Tell me about your neighbors.
  • Why did you move from the previous rental?
  • When did you decide to move?
  • What are your hobbies?
  • Why would you or wouldn’t you rent from your present landlord again?
  • Do you smoke indoors or outdoors?
  • Does anyone have a CORI or a SCORI?
  • What type of animals do you have now or thinking of getting?
  • When are you able to see the unit?
  • How long would you want to live there?
  • What type of vacuum do you own?
  • Do you have all of the required deposits now?


Rental Prospect Documentation

  • Current Federal Photo ID, Passport or Driver’s License
  • Current Utilities Bill
  • Current Phone Bill
  • Current Cable Bill
  • Current Credit Card Bill
  • Current Pay Stubs (at least 3 months)
  • Current Tax Return (self-employed)
  • Current Bank Statements (self-employed)
  • Current Reference Letters (landlord)
  • Current Reference Letters (personal)
  • Current Credit Report
  • Current/Previous Rental History
  • Social Security Number
  • Auto Make, Model, Plates
  • Birthdate
  • Type of Vacuum
  • Renter Insurance Policy
  • License To Carry Firearms


Belaire Property Management LLC Rental App

  • To be filled out at the showing, in advance, or online
  • Filled out completely and double-checked
  • Time stamp and date each application
  • Verify all information
  • Make sure the application is signed
  • Yahoo
  • Google
  • Bing
  • Facebook
  • LinkedIn
  • MySpace
  • InstaGram
  • Shutterfly
  • Twitter
  • Verify Everything on the Rental Application
  • Credit Report/Background Check
  • Online Resources


Verify ALL Sources of Income

  • Pay Stubs
  • Tips & Wages
  • Subsidy Letters
  • Financial Assistance
  • Alimony Payments
  • Family Trust
  • Veteran’s Benefits
  • Pension Funds
  • Section 8
  • Food Stamps
  • Fuel Assistance
  • Bank Checking/Savings Accounts


Verify ALL Past & Present Landlords

  • What was the resident’s payment history perfect?
  • Did the resident give sufficient notice according to the lease?
  • Did the resident fulfill all of the terms of the lease?
  • Did the resident give a reason for moving?
  • Were there any complaints from neighbors about the resident?
  • Would you rent to this resident again?
  • Why would you not want to keep resident longer?
  • Where they clean tenants?
  • Did they have any animals?
  • Did other tenants complain about them?
  • Have the police ever been called to the property?
  • What did they pay for rent (did it include any utilities)?
  • What was required to move in? First? Last? Security?
  • Was their rent subsidized in any way, and if so how?
  • How long did they live there?
  • Did they get along with their neighbors?
  • Did the applicant smoke?


Verify ALL Employment & Income References

  • Do they still work there?
  • How long have they worked there?
  • What was their starting date?
  • Can you verify what they have put down for their income?
  • Does their future employment with your company look promising?
  • Are they dependable employees?
  • Do they get along with their co-workers?


Decision Time

  • Resident Report Card 
  • Tally Up & Choose
  • Document Everything
  • Keep Clear Records
  • Keep Digital & Hard Copy Back Ups
  • Stay Organized
  • Be prepared for court from day 1
  • Good Results Build a Preferred “Waiting List” 

Top 10 Tips:
Guerrilla Tenant Screening Tips for Landlords
A Property Manager’s Field Guide

Do you have any other ideas on this topic you could share to help our online community? Please chime in to share a comment or review. All feedback is welcomed!

Warmest regards,

Brian Lucier
Belaire Property Management
Regional Property Manager
(978) 448-0669 office

Belaire Property Management is now on
FacebookTwitterLinkedIn, YouTube, and Thumbtack

   Like us on Facebook   Follow us on Twitter    YouTubeThumbtack Professional

Leave a Reply