#Property Management
#How to
#Long Term Renting

Best Tenant Screening: What to Look for in Tenant Screening Services

Written By
Belong on Jun 11, 2021
How to Screen for the Right People - And Protect Yourself From “Over-Screening”

There’s nothing that makes homeownership more wonderful than finding and leasing to residents of the highest quality.  (At Belong, we never say “tenant.”  It’s medieval!)

Resident quality is the ultimate determinant of success for those managing properties.  Four-star residents make renting out your home run smoother, reducing administration, costs, and time spent overall.

On the other hand,  there’s nothing that makes it more of a misery than having the wrong people in the house you love.    In fact, there isn’t enough recognition given to the economic impact of investing valuable time on recalcitrant residents.  (As the saying goes, time IS money.)

But how do you go about finding those with right “hard” requirements - impeccable rental histories (including payment habits) and the required  right financial resources =  and right “soft” ones.  Those include high levels of inherent responsibility, communication skills, and mutual respect?

As the folks who invented the new resident/homeowner paradigm - and in the process are reinventing property management - Belong is uniquely equipped to find the right residents for you.

Our ability to do that starts with our guiding principle: that anyone moving into a Belong home is taking on the responsibility of living in a home that is loved  by both the resident and the homeowner.

We find, time and again, that once that principle is established, we naturally attract the Four-Star residents we described earlier.   It’s a screening principle that is every bit as important as the economic ones.  

In fact, we stand beyond the fact that our new paradigm attracts the best residents, and that our extensive human-to-human tenant screen works, but guaranteeing the rent to anyone in our homeowner community.  No exceptions.
Back-of-the-Napkin Math On Choosing Belong.
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If you are still looking to DIY  your home/property rental, don’t say we didn’t warn you about the complexities.  But since we want you to succeed on your own, we’re happy to share our experience, with insights into what’s worked for us.  Before you embark upon any of this, you will need to have them completa rental application form, and sign it to give you permission to conduct the necessary checks.

Screen Now or Scream Later

There are multiple levels of tenant screening, and you should look at them as a ladder.  The first step is to verify an applicant’s identity - are they the person they claim to be?  You can do that with services like: 

At Belong, we handle the resident screening process for our homeowners. That way you don’t have to worry about selecting the right resident. Here is our guarantee, Each Belong Resident must pass a thorough background check and face-to-face interview. We stand by this screening, and back it up with guaranteed rent and property protection.

Once that’s done, the next step lies in how you write your listing ads.  The right message can actually work as a screening filter.  For example, the more you can combine facts and emotion into the copy, the more you can signal that you are looking for a special kind of tenant who respects those values.

Also be alert to where you market your vacancies. When you join Belong we handle that for you. We’ll make your home instagrammable. Belong handles all of the tours and showings. We’ll find residents that love your home. 

Use the Right Software Solution

There are software platforms built to help you manage the renting process. As a Belong Homeowner, we handle all of that for you. The right program will enable you to quickly compare potential residents and build a valuable database for your property.  Perhaps a great tenant who also passes the screening criteria needs the house sooner than it’s available.  Wouldn’t it be valuable to be able to get your hands on that information for next time?

Be Sure Not to Discriminate

This is what we are referring to by “Over-screening.”

It’s your responsibility to follow all applicable local laws, which means you need to read and understand the landlord and tenancy statutes for your jurisdiction.  If you break the law, even inadvertently, you are subject to fines, court appearances, and extra required documentation. What’s more, any tenant you disqualify could turn to the courts and Federal Fair Housing Act and claim discrimination.
What’s more, some questions are impermissible - and illegal - in the screening process. 

Optimizing Tenant Selection

Making the right decision is a combination of eliminating negatives and identifying positives.  It’s most efficient to identify big negatives or red flags - like a low credit score, exaggerated income, unstable work history or fudged dates.   Those are instant eliminators, so get that out of the way first. It saves time and you can quickly review red flags that might make some unacceptable.

If an applicant passes that screen, it’s time to move on to the qualitative measures.

You can tell a lot about a person by the kind of questions they ask.  Do they pose intelligent queries such as who are the neighbors, and what is the neighborhood culture like, and how well the house has been maintained.  They want to be sure this is a comfortable place where they can stay for hopefully many years, so a good sign is if they want to learn something about you  (Without being nosy, of course.)  

They also shouldn’t ask for a ton of concessions, and when they do negotiate, which is to be expected, they need to be respectful and demonstrate that they love the house and want to live there.

In addition, as part of the selection process you can evaluate their mood, body language, tone of voice. It takes an expert to do this at a high level, but you can gain some basic skills by looking at these videos which help you identify who is lying.

Lastly, you will want to check personal and work references.  Since most people don’t like to give a bad reference - and employers can be sued if they give a good reference that doesn’t work out - you’ll need to listen carefully for a tone of voice, or code words, which tell you something isn’t right.  

Tenant Screening Process

In summary,  your tenant screening process must address the following steps
1. look for accidental errors and omissions or willful deceitfulness
2. check for financial responsibility
3. look for personal conscientiousness and moral character
4. verify income and creditworthiness
5. check for consistent work history
6. investigate and verify self-employment financials 

Should I Hire a Tenant Screening Service?

If you want to go “partial DIY” we recommend you hire a tenant screening services; we’ve provided some links to those such as tenantverification.com and tenantbackgroundsearch.com who provide these reports inexpensively. You can also require the tenant to pay for the report themselves. 

Background checks, criminal record and credit rating checks are typically covered by tenant screening services. Keep in mind that these checks are just the basics of tenant screening - the “rule out” red flags as described earlier. The rest of the process still needs to be performed by you, or your landlord or property manager.

To help you do the best screening, you’ll want a service that offers a these 5 services:

  • consumer credit report (from any of Experian, Equifax or Transunion)
  • eviction records search
  • criminal records search
  • sex offender registry search
  • employment verifications

Here are a few tenant screening services to consider:

The Right Tenant Today Might Not Be the Right One Tomorrow

Even with the most thorough due diligence, mistakes happen.  So you you need to assess your risks in advance,

If the tenant doesn’t pay their rent, can you manage your cash flow and financial commitments until they are replaced? Do you know how to evict a bad tenant? Do you have insurance to cover damage they might do? With Belong, you don’t have to worry about these things. 

Belong has the Solution

Feeling overwhelmed? We don’t blame you. There’s a lot to keep track of as a landlord, so getting into that business isn’t for the faint of heart. You could try to go it alone, hire a bad property management company , or you could let us help you navigate the unfamiliar waters. We not only offer homeowners property management , but we’ve also helped hundreds of landlords find success. We’re not a property manager, but rather a long-term rental platform dedicated to reinventing the home rental experience.

So if you’re ready to become a successful landlord (or better said—homeowner), but don’t want to deal with all the time-consuming nuts and bolts from tenant screening and property taxes to understanding the rental market and bookkeeping, let’s get started. We’ll help you with your long-term investment so you can make money and see monthly cash flow while still having time to make memories with those you love most.