The rental applications have come flooding in and it’s time to start reviewing them – but what should you look for? Too often, guides to the tenant selection process focus on red flags and while those are important, you want great tenants, not just acceptable ones. At the end of the day, red flags don’t tell you enough.
Before you can start making decisions about tenant applications, there’s some important work you need to do on your end. First, ensure that your tenant screening process is legally compliant. As with job applications, there are reasons you can’t rule out tenants, such as race and ethnicity, age, gender, or disability, so you may as well not ask about those factors. You’ll also want to take some time to set clear standards for what you’re looking for in a tenant. Odds are good you’ll still have multiple potential tenants who meet those terms, but establishing standards will help you move through the process efficiently and fairly.
Fair screening is harder said than done, which is why we always recommend using a third-party screening process like the one we offer at Green Residential. This helps reduce your liability and, as experienced property management professionals, we’re better equipped to ensure that no detail slips through the cracks.
The Gold Stars
Once you’ve established your process, it’s time to start sorting through tenant applications. Here’s what will get an applicant a gold star and a spot on the top of the pile:
- Perfect Preparation: Rental applications come with a lot of additional documentation. Most require paystubs or bank statements, proof of identity, references, and sometimes even veterinary information if we’re talking about pet-friendly apartments. People who check all the boxes go to the top of the pile.Providing all supporting documents should be an obvious step towards getting your application accepted, but very rarely is a missing document a useful red flag. An incomplete basic application – now that’s a red flag, but applications can be confusing and it’s easy for one of the many supporting documents to fall through the cracks. Most of the time, you’ll need to ask for at least one additional piece of documentation, but take note of who gets it all right the first time.
- Cosigners: Typically, landlords only require a cosigner when renting to college students who may not have a rental history or have trouble demonstrating sufficient income. Some millennials, solidly into adulthood now, may still offer a cosigner even without being asked. That may be because of a spotty employment history that’s recently stabilized or limited savings, but others just want to provide an extra measure of security.
- Real References: Sometimes landlords will wait until late in the screening process to start calling applicants’ references because they don’t want to bother other property managers or employers. Our rule: don’t wait. Call early and really listen to the references. Ask them questions and listen to tone and nuance. Ideally, you want to speak to their current and past landlord and their current employer and ask specific questions. Anyone who only get a lukewarm response, even if superficially positive, goes to the bottom of the pile. Those who spark a genuine positive response in the reference get a gold star – you’ll be able to hear the warmth over the phone.
- Memorable Moments: Have you already had an open house or given tours of the property? Great tenants don’t just apply – they reach out first and, when they visit, they make a strong impression. Make note of applications belonging to individuals who stood out during their viewing for added consideration. People who showed up on time and stayed to ask questions or talk about the property are working hard to stand out from the pack; that commitment will likely carry over to their tenancy.
All The Extras
Apartment applications don’t usually leave a lot of room for extra information, but great tenants will often go out of their way to provide more – without stepping on your toes. For example, since pet-friendly apartments can be hard to find, tenants applying for these properties may supply information on any behavioral or obedience training their pet has had, or if they board them during the day. These are small signals about responsibility that are meaningful when you’re deciding who to rent an apartment to.
Another sign of a great tenant is that they don’t just give thoughtful answers to your questions, but they also ask questions about the property other than the basics. These are the tenants who ask questions about a multi-unit building’s community, the different resources in the neighborhood, and about the overall management philosophy. These are tenants who are self-aware enough to recognize their own needs and seek housing where they know everyone will be happy.
Finally, top notch tenants are a combination of patient and responsive. They’re attentive to communication and get back to you in a timely fashion – think, within 24 hours – but they’re also not in a hurry. These are applicants who won’t call you constantly to ask when you’re making a decision, even though they’re actively waiting and receptive. Tenants who are scrambling for housing aren’t necessarily bad ones, but it can signal they’re hiding something or running away from a problem and will accept virtually any offer.
The Screening Expert
Screening tenants is hard work and it’s much easier to rule out bad tenants than it is to find the best ones. Plus, people searching for apartments will be applying for multiple units, so there’s a lot of competition for their tenancy. That’s why you should leave the screening process to the experts.
At Green Residential, we provide comprehensive screening, including reference and credit checks, rental history, and criminal background checks – and that’s just the start of the process. As your property management professionals, we’ll stand beside you and support your property’s day to day operations with expertise based in over 30 years of experience.
Contact us today to learn more about Green Residential’s offerings. We look forward to welcoming your tenants home.