You don’t want your tenants to waste your time. Well, they don’t want you to waste theirs, either. In real estate, it’s important to “examine” prospective tenants to see if they should advance to the next steps. During this stage, the landlord (you) determines if the tenant is qualified to live in the rental and if their requirements meet the rental’s amenities. That way, the prospective tenant no longer needs to go through the rest of the process, only to be met with disappointment in the end.
What is pre-screening?
Pre-screening saves you from putting tenants that don’t meet your criteria through the stricter stages of tenant screening. This allows you to narrow down your pool of potential tenants to only those who meet your requirements. It lets you see if you and your tenant are the perfect “fit”.
Is pre-screening the same as tenant screening?
Pre-screening is not the same process as tenant screening. Pre-screening involves ensuring that the potential tenant meets your minimum requirements. Pre-screening is also a two-way process where the tenant makes sure that the rental unit is what they’re looking for.
It’s important to note that the rental application is required during the pre-screening stage. However, it isn’t until the screening stage that the landlord goes into the nitty-gritty requirement and determines who’s “worthy” of signing the lease agreement.
Do you have to pre-screen your tenants?
No, you don’t. However, pre-screening your tenants can save you a significant amount of time. If you don’t pre-screen your tenants, you’ll have to review every single rental application. By the time you’re done going through everyone, your property will have been vacant for far too long. To rent out your property fast, partner with a South Florida property management firm that has a strict pre-screening and screening process in place.
Important note for landlords
Remember that every prospective tenant must submit the same rental application. It doesn’t matter if you think they’re trustworthy. Under the Fair Housing Act, you need to require the same set of requirements for every prospective tenant. You cannot tell one tenant that they don’t need to submit solely because your “gut” tells you that they’re good tenants. In the same way, you can’t refuse to accept a tenant’s application due to their protected class (e.g. race, religion, origin, etc.). If you fail to do this, you will be in trouble with the law.
If possible, partner with a property management company that can help you collect the requirements from potential tenants. That way, you can conduct your pre-screening process without any hitches.
What to ask tenants during the pre-screening stage
As we said, the pre-screening stage gives you an idea of how well you and your potential tenant will get along. It also answers the question, “Does this tenant meet my minimum requirements?”. Let’s take a look at the questions you may want to ask during the pre-qualifying stage.
#1 When do you plan on moving in?
Is your tenant looking for a rental they can move into in a week, or can they wait for you to get it ready? Find out when your tenant wants to move in so that you can set their expectations. Also, if your tenant doesn’t want to move in yet, but you want to fill your vacancy fast, you may not want to meet their demands as that would be disadvantageous to you. Come to a compromise if you can, but not at the cost of your property’s profitability.
#2 Do you have pets?
If you’ve decided to disallow pets from your investment property, you need to find out if your prospective tenants have a pet or two. This will allow you to narrow down your tenant pool to tenants without pets. In turn, those with pets won’t have to waste their time going through the rest of the tenant screening stages.
Bear in mind that you can ban animals from your rental property, but only if they’re pets. Under the law, you are not allowed to refuse to screen a tenant that owns a service animal or emotional support animal.
Not sure if you should rent to pet-owning tenants? Consider consulting a South Florida property management agent to figure out if the pros outweigh the cons.
#3 How many tenants will be living here?
Is your single-family home in a neighborhood that’s governed by a homeowners association (HOA)? Some HOAs have put a cap on the number of tenants that can live in one rental at once. There may also be state laws that prohibit an excessive number of tenants. This is also called the reasonable number of tenants. For example, in California, there can only be two tenants per bedroom unit (plus one “extra” tenant). So, if the rental property has two bedrooms and six people live there, the landlord would find themselves in trouble with the law.
#4 Why are you moving?
Pay attention to your potential tenant’s facial expression when they answer this. If they look away, they’re likely concealing a fact that could ruin their chances. Similarly, if they don’t seem to have a ready response, or if their response seems too rehearsed, it could indicate that they’re not truthful.
#5 Are any of you smokers?
If you don’t want to rent to smokers, or if your unit is in a building that bans smoking, your potential tenants need to be aware of this. Renting to tenants who smoke can put your property at risk, as the smell of smoke tends to stick to walls, furniture, and the like. Explain this to your tenant – who knows? They may be willing to stop smoking if that means they’ll get to live in your single-family home!
Partner With a Property Management Company to Conduct Tenant Screening
Tenant pre-screening is an important part of property management as it allows you to find tenants that fit your criteria. It also allows tenants to find properties that meet their needs in terms of their features and amenities.
If you’re looking for tenants, why not work with an expert property management company like Luxury Property Care? From pre-screening to the final screening, we’ll make sure that you rent your unit to only qualified tenants that meet your requirements to a T.