How to Screen and Select Tenants FAQ

What's the best way for landlords to screen tenants?

Savvy landlords should ask all prospective tenants to fill out a written rental application that includes the following information:

  • employment, income, and credit history
  • Social Security and driver's license numbers
  • past evictions or bankruptcies, and
  • references.

Before choosing tenants, landlords should check with previous landlords and other references; verify income, employment, and bank account information; and obtain a credit report. The credit report is especially important because it will indicate whether a particular person has a history of paying rent or bills late, has gone through bankruptcy, or has ever been evicted.

To avoid trouble with fair housing laws, be sure to be consistent and fair in your screening. For instance, make it your policy to require credit reports from all applicants. For more information, see Nolo's article Choosing Tenants: Avoid Fair Housing Complaints and Lawsuits.

Need help screening tenants?

Find great tenanats and easily create a rental application using Nolo's bestselling products.
Every Landlord's Guide to Finding Great Tenants Choosing tenants is a landlord's most important (and most risky) decision -- find out how to do it safely and legally! Let this book guide you through the process of attracting, screening and selecting the best renters available. Buy the book >>
Residential Rental Application Use this easy-to-use form to hand out to prospective renters. This form includes information you'll need as a landlord from prospective tenants. Buy the form >>
Talk to a Lawyer If you have questions about your landlord issues, get advice from a landlord/tenant lawyer near you.

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