What Is Tenant Screening – Why Is It Necessary?

If you are in the business of real estate, such as a property management company, real estate office or apartment building owners, you need specific and accurate information to evaluate and choose reliable, qualified tenants for rental properties.

The Process

  1. Tenant Pre-Screening

From the potential tenant’s initial contact about renting your property, you begin to form impressions as to whether that individual will be someone who can fulfill the lease agreement. While rental price vs. income is an obvious qualifier, pre-screening goes beneath the surface.

You can often discover a lot by allowing the prospect to lead with questions so you may learn what is important to them. For example,

  • Questions about a pool or exercise area might indicate that the potential tenant values personal care – and people who value personal care, often value property care.
  • Questions about average utilities or washer/dryer hook-ups may indicate a person who is careful with finances.
  • Questions about social outlets in the area from daytime activities to bars and nightlife reveal their interests.

Presenting your questions is also a critical part of prescreening.  Be sure to include questions such as,

  • Do they currently rent, how long have they rented, and how long will they expect to live in the rental?
  • Why are they moving to a new rental and how soon do they want to move into the apartment? (If moving was a sudden decision and they need to vacate their current location, it may indicate some negative issues.)
  • What do they do for a living and what is a rough estimate of their annual income?
  1. Rental application and credit screening.

If a prospective tenant is still interested, set up a time for completing a lease application and securing a deposit. Keep an eye out for red flags as you meet the applicant. First impressions do tell you a lot – like a sloppy appearance may indicate what you can expect regarding upkeep of the apartment.

  1. Background Checks

When the rental application is complete, review the lease agreement, collect a deposit, and inform the potential renter you will need to run a credit report and criminal history check. Remember, it is a legal requirement to inform the prospective tenant you will be checking their credit report and for them to authorize the screening. Consider charging a nominal fee for this service, which will apply to the first rental period if the background check is clean

Rather than do all the screening and checking yourself, particularly if you have limited staff, it would be beneficial and efficient to hire a qualified, reliable agency such as Data Screening, to administer the process on your behalf.


Data Screening is a Certified Women’s Business Enterprise that has offered business-to-business employment and tenant screenings to human resource professionals and business owners, including staffing companies, for two decades. Among other organizations, they are members of the ASA (American Staffing Association), SHRM (Society for Human Resource Management) and the NAPBS (National Association of Professional Background Screeners).

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