How Can You Legally Screen a Tenant?

Property Management comes with many responsibilities, and one of the most crucial is prevention. Preventing tenant-damages property and the incurred costs. Preventing vacant property because the tenant left without notice – and without pay. Preventing damages caused by pets in a no-pet zone. The list continues. The most effective prevention tool is investing the time and finances to pre-screen clients. It will save you both time and money in the end. A key factor is prescreening within legal boundaries.

Here are 7 steps to handle keep tenant screening legal

  1. Have the prospective tenant complete a rental application. Your state may allow you to charge an application fee which may cover the background and credit check.
  2. Make sure the form clearly states you will be performing a background check and criminal history report as you must have the person’s written
  3. Check all financial information such as bank records, income, and credit cards. It’s good to go back about 7-10 years to get a full financial picture, such as a burden of debt, and learn how the prospective tenant will have the ability to pay rent each month.
  4. Verify the prospective tenant’s income. You may want to request a recent pay stub since some employers don’t give out private information or salary histories.
  5. Always ask how many people will be living at the address. Include questions and applicable information about pets.
  6. It is possible to ask about habits such as smoking and friends who smoke or if the person works the night shift or odd hours.
  7. Contact and validate personal references.

Better yet – contract with a professional screening company, such as Data Screening – they will ascertain all aspects of screening are complete and legal, ultimately saving you cost and frustration.


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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