How to Screen Prospective Tenants

Four small models of houses with paper clips on them

Tenant Screening in Atlanta

One of the worst experiences for landlords to have is a vacant property. To get a significant return on your investment, it’s important to have a steady stream of rental payments every month. When a lease has ended and a tenant has moved out, it can be daunting to start the process of finding a replacement. Often, landlords are eager to find someone interested in the property, and will hand over the keys to the first person with a deposit check in hand. For many, screening tenants seems like an expensive, lengthy process and prefer to avoid it. However, failing to get applications, background checks and employment verification may leave the property owner in a bind when their unscreened renters fail to make their payments. While screening tenants may seem like a nuisance, eviction proceedings and months of uncollected rent is worse. Take the time to go through these steps at the beginning, and you’ll be happy to find a long-term renter that will bring in a steady flow of income for many months to come.

Use a Rental Application 

The first step is to have all prospective tenants fill out a rental application. This will help eliminate non-serious renters and give you the required permission to conduct credit and background checks. It also keeps information organized and easily accessible. Consider charging an application fee as well. The costs associated with running background checks on dozens of applicants can add up quickly.

Do a Thorough Background Check

Get a copy of the applicant’s credit report as well as their financial and criminal history. This will make you aware of any major unpaid debts or lawsuits. Look for any red flags such as a long string of unpaid traffic tickets or misdemeanors, not just felony charges.

Pay Attention When Showing the House

When taking a tour of the house, take note of the personality and presentation of the tenants. Are they respectful and friendly? Are they trying to find issues with the property to negotiate on rent? Do they seem like they’re trying to evade important questions? If they track mud through the house, or walk through the entry way with a cigarette in their hand, they will most likely continue these bad habits after moving in.

Conduct an Interview with Prospective Tenants

While it may seem like a nuisance or extra unnecessary step, an interview can be a powerful way to narrow down applicants. Ask questions about their employment status, rental history and lifestyle. The interview can be conducted in person, perhaps before or after viewing the property, or over the phone. Be mindful of the fair housing act, and avoid questions that may seem discriminating.

Verify Employment

Call their current employer. While it may seem like a lot of extra work, verifying employment in this way is well worth the time. Unfortunately, many people may lie about having a job, and fake paystubs can be printed for free off the internet. Speaking directly with a manager or business owner will help you decrease the chances of getting scammed.

Speak with Former Landlords

Contact the former landlords. Ask if the tenants regularly paid on time, how the property was treated, and if they would accept them as tenants again in the future. This is your chance to catch a glimpse of how they will treat you. If they were frequently a week late on their rent or severely damaged the property while living there, chances are you’ll get the same treatment.

Protect Yourself with a Quality Lease Agreement

Once you do decide on a tenant, be sure to continue protecting yourself and your real estate investment by having a complete and thorough lease agreement. Understand and familiarize yourself with city, state and federal housing laws and consider getting an attorney to draft or review your lease to avoid tenant loopholes, illegal policies or potential lawsuits.

Are You an Atlanta Area Real Estate Investor Interested in Property Management?

If you’re a frustrated property owner struggling to balance property management with other responsibilities, the expert team at is here to help. The tasks associated with properly managing rental properties can be overwhelming, particularly to owners who have day jobs, families to raise or other business ventures they want to grow. Let the professionals at take care of marketing your property, screening tenants, calling maintenance professionals and handling rental payments while you enjoy a new level of freedom and flexibility. We proudly serve property owners in Atlanta, Roswell, Sandy Springs, Stone Mountain, Lilburn, Decatur and all other surrounding Metro Atlanta neighborhoods. Call today to find out how we can help you.

Compare listings