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Ultimate Tenant Screening Checklist for Rental Property

tenant screening checklist
Looking for the ultimate tenant screening checklist to be sure you get the best renter in your rental property? This should mean you’ve done a great job listing your property and are now generating response.


As with everything related to real estate investing, there’s a right and wrong way to do things, including the tenant screening process. That’s why we put together this tenant screening checklist – to simplify the process of properly screening potential renters.

The Dream Tenant

Let’s start by sharing a little checklist that makes an ideal tenant.

The ideal tenant will have:

  • Stable work history
  • Salary amounting to 2.5 to 3 times, or more, than what you charge in rent – before looking at debt-to-income ratios
  • Good credit – a good score is 601 and above; the higher the less risk for you
  • Good relationship with past landlords – you want to contact the previous landlord to the place they’re living at now to gain a accurate picture of how they are as renters
  • Sensible reason for moving – needing more room is a good reason, being evicted in not

Familiarize Yourself with Laws

When it comes using a tenant screening checklist for prospects, there are questions you can and cannot ask, legally. Cross that line of questioning and now you may be accused of discrimination. You don’t want that trouble on your hands.

In an effort to protect your costly investment, you may, unknowingly, ask a question that crosses lines that shouldn’t be crossed. These are state and federal lines drawn by the Office of Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity.

Because of the fact that each state has unique parameters around what’s proper and what’s not, you should research your local laws when coming up with your list of questions to include in your pre-screening interview with potential renters.

Questions to Avoid – Tenant Screening Checklist

Overall, you shouldn’t ask questions of some applicants that you don’t ask of all of them. For instance, if you ask for paystubs of some renters, you must require the same of all. That’s just practical ethics we should have in practice as we implement our tenant screening checklist.


Avoid questions regarding a potential tenant’s religious affiliation as you work this tenant screening checklist. If they think you only rent to certain religious groups then you could be accused of being discriminatory.


You cannot ask questions that may be interpreted as you being discriminatory based on the where a person has a disability or not. For instance, if you have a ‘no-pet’ policy, you can state this and also state that the only pets that are allowed are service animals.

In this case you can ask for proof, which is a certification for the animal. But, you would not lead into this conversation by asking if the applicant has a disability that requires a service animal.

National Origin vs. Citizenship

The National Origin of an individual is a protected class, so you should never as a person which country they were born in because this may be construed as racism. It is strictly against the Fair Housing Act.

On the other hand, citizenship is a different issue. You may ask whether a person is a U.S. citizen or not – in most states. This is not the case in California and a few other states – so again, check on this before carrying out your tenant screening checklist with a prospect.


While it is safe to ask about the number of occupants will be living in the rental property, you may not ask how many children a potential tenant has. This may be viewed as being discriminatory towards the family status of prospects.

Steps of an Interview

Now that you understand what you cannot ask. Let’s move forward with steps to engaging in a cordial interview with a prospective tenant.

Introduce Yourself

Break the ice by simply introducing yourself. Once you state who you are and why you’re calling them, if doing a phone interview, then you’ll move forward with asking an open-ended question to get them to talk freely.

Rental Property Availability Date

It’s important to learn when they plan to move right up front. If your house will be available in 15 days but they can’t move for 5 months, then you will have wasted a lot of time if you asked this question last. So ask them when they are looking to move upfront.

Why Are Leaving Your Current Home?

If they state that they are being evicted for some ‘discrepancies’ then you know it’s time to pull the plug on this conversation. On the other hand, if they are looking to get a nicer place, be closer to their job, live in a bigger place or other reasons, then you’ve got a green light on that, at least.

Are You Fine with Us Doing a Credit and Background Check?

You should let the prospect know that in order to rent from you, you must perform a credit and background check – and that they must meet the criteria for both. If they get cold feet and back away, or reveal things that may show up on these checks, then you have a better sense about them even before conducting the checks.

Do You Have Pets?

This gives you an opportunity to learn where they are on pets. If you have a no-pet policy, then they will have to decide whether to sell or give the pet away or not rent from you.

There are other questions you may throw into the tenant screening checklist that may suit your specific needs, but this list primes the pump.

Applications in the Tenant Screening Process

After you interview a tenant and before you show the rental property or unit, you may want to have the potential tenant complete an application online.

You also should consider adding a background check to your tenant screening checklist. This should show the prospects criminal record, eviction history and other public records.

The next action you want to take while reviewing some background information on the tenant is a credit check. You’ll be able to see an applicant’s debt-to-income ratio, see if they have a history of late payments, any accounts that have reached collection and whether or not they have filed for bankruptcy.

Remember, that as a real estate investor, you should be building a list of prospective buyers. Even if a good candidate doesn’t work out now, you should regularly email this growing email list of interested potential buyers because this makes a great opportunity to get buyers and renters quickly.


All of the above is just one of the tasks that can be taken completely off your plate by hiring Utz Property Management to handle the entire renter screening process for you, with exceptional professionalism and care.

A tenant screening checklist is just one of the things land-lords are concerned with, so why not remove all the headaches and stress, by hiring Utz Property Management? Learn more about how we can help you by scheduling your free, zero-cost or obligation Profitable Portfolio Strategy Session for real estate investors.

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