Why You Should Have Rental Criteria

rental criteira


Landlord Tip – Why You Should Have Rental Criteria

Rental criteria are crucial for every landlord.  They help you quickly identify prospects and applicants who have trouble paying the rent on time and in full every month.  

Having written guidelines also keeps you within the Fair Housing Guidelines.  Your screening process should be transparent so that you can easily defend yourself from a claim of discrimination.  Your written guidelines should be fair and objective so that every prospect and applicant is treated consistently and fairly.


A detailed rental criteria checklist provides you with:

  • Standard guidelines.
  • Fair and objective review. 
  • Takes the emotion out of the process.
  • Makes it easier to make a decision with specific guidelines and criteria.
    Freedom from possible discrimination accusations.


Examples of Written Guidelines

Written guidelines don’t have to be complicated.  Suggested guidelines include:

  1. Rental income guideline of 3x the rent.
  2. A job history requirement.
  3. A rental history requirement.
  4. Credit score requirement.
  5. An eviction filing process.
  6. Conviction history.

These are common rental criteria to have.  The more strict your guidelines are, the harder it will be to qualify a tenant.  For lower end properties, you will need to have more lenient guidelines.  If you have nicer properties, you can have higher criteria to get better tenants.

Your goal should always be to find a great tenant who has a proven track record of paying their rent and their other bills on time and in full each and every month. 


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How To Find A Great Tenant For Your Rental

How to find a great tenant

How To Find A Great Tenant For Your Rental

All landlords want great tenants. How do you find a great tenant for your vacant rental property though?

Searching for a great tenant can seem like an impossible task. I have found that you have to talk to a lot people to find one or two who will fit your description of what a great tenant is.

The first step is to list your rental requirements on your listing so that you discourage those who don’t qualify not to contact you.  The second step is to conduct a thorough pre-screening of every interested party before you show the property. Why bother to allow people to see your vacant rental property if you on’t know if they would even qualify to rent from you?  The third step is meet interested parties in person.


Pre Screening Potential Tenants

We are going to talk about Step Two of this process which is the pre-screening step.

Advantages of Pre-Screening:

  • Find out more about anyone interested in your property
  • Eliminate a lot of people because they don’t qualify
  • Only show your property to people who meet your qualifications


Keep in mind that at this point, you will only have verbal answers to your questions. Hopefully, no one lies to you but you will find that out when someone actually submits an applications. That would be grounds for immediate denial.


What Questions Should You Ask?

For Fair Housing reasons, always ask the same questions of every person that calls. Going through this process will help you identify people who can potentially be a great tenant for you.

The longer you do this, the more rhythm you will have. If you notice that you are getting mostly through the list of questions and keep reaching one that is disqualifying, change the order of questions.

For example, if you do not allow pets, ask that question close to the beginning. There is no reason to ask a lot of other questions if this person has a pet.

It is amazing how much information someone will tell you when you ask open ended questions!  Depending on how much information you want to know, you can add to these questions or change them however you want.

Some basic questions that I start with are listed below. Be sure to customize them or rearrange the order to suite you. If you don’t accept pets, move the pets question up closer to the top. I can’t tell you how many times I asked that towards the end and had to tell them I was sorry.


Examples of Pre Screening Questions:

  1. How many people will be living in the home?
  2. Where do you live now?
  3. How much is your rent?
  4. Why are you moving?
  5. If you’ve been at your current residence for less than two years, why do you move so frequently?
  6. What type of pets do you have?
  7. Where do you work?
  8. How long have you been in your current job?
  9. How much is your gross monthly income?
  10. Do you have any credit issues that we need to know about?
  11. If you have Section 8:
  12. How long have you been on section 8?
  13. Have you met with your caseworker yet?
  14. Do you have a voucher and how much is it for?
  15. How many bedrooms are you approved for?
  16. How soon do you want to move in?


Again, customize the questions to meet your needs.  Your questions should always be open ended in order to encourage everyone to tell you more. Be prepared to ask more questions as needed and ask for more details.

This process is easy to implement and allows you to easily see who doesn’t meet your basic guidelines.  A qualified list of pre-screened people will start you on the path to finding a great tenant!

Pre-Screen Prospective Tenants Prior To Showing Your Rental Home

Pre-Screen Potential Tenants Over The Phone 


Yea!  Your house is ready to rent, the phone is ringing and people want to see your house!  It is time to pre-screen potential tenants for your wonderful rental.  What a great feeling!










It is exciting when you start getting phone calls about seeing your rental property.  You sigh in relief because you know it will rent fast!  Before you grab your keys and run out the door to jump in your car and drive to your rental, you need take a step back and be sure these people can actually afford your house.


Getting a good tenant requires a lot of homework and just plain good luck sometimes. 


[ctt template=”5″ link=”1cAfe” via=”no” ]Quit wasting your time showing a rental home before you pre-screen any potential tenants![/ctt]


pre-screen potential tenants

Pre-Screen Potential Tenants

Before you waste your time running over to show your home, talk to every single person that calls and do a quick pre-screen.


Taking the time to pre-screen potential tenants over the phone will save you a lot of time and aggravation.  If you are one of those people that do not like to talk on the phone to people they have not met, get over it. 


There is no way around that unless you like to waste your time, driving around, meeting people, who will never in a million years, qualify to rent a property from you. 


The bottom line is that, as much as you may hate it, taking the time to talk to these people, for just a few minutes, will save you a lot of frustration in the long run. 



Crazy People, Nice People, Broke People

You will talk to talk to people who don’t have a clue, who will have you rolling your eyes and shaking your head, who will have you pulling your hair out and you may eventually wonder why, oh why, you ever decided to rent your property! 


But, you will also talk to some very nice people who are very interesting, even if they can’t ever qualify to rent your house.


Why waste your time with someone that has a sketchy rental history, a spotted, job hopping employment history and / or serious credit issues.



That’s Not Fair!!!  

If the prospective tenants object and say


“But, I just want to see it first”,


Stop and ask yourself what are they trying to hide?


When you are trying to find a new job, would you refuse to answer questions about yourself in this situation or think they were being ridiculous? 


Would you be rude or not follow specific instructions? 


I have had several people call about our available properties actually be rude to me when I was just asking routine questions to make sure they met very basic minimum requirements. 


They wouldn’t tell me their name, or didn’t want to tell me if they had a job or how much their monthly income was. 


I have had people hang up on me as well.  I shudder to think how they would treat me down the road if I had actually rented to them! 


Pre-Screening Questions

Before you agree to show any rental home, you should ask at least these 4 questions to make sure you are not wasting your time or the prospective client’s time.

  1. An income of at least 3 times the rent.
  1. Been on their current job at least 1 year.
  2. Been in their current home at least 1 year.
  3. No evictions filed on them in the last 3 years.


There is no reason to waste your time showing your property without some minimum guidelines in place.


Asking these four questions will tell you if this person has enough income to pay the rent and all of their bills and has a stable income and rental history.


Take The Time To Ask  

Asking these four questions allows you to screen out anyone who is not as stable. 


There are always exceptions and you do need to use your listening skills and ask questions.


For example, if the person has been on this job less than a year, ask where he worked before.


Some people stay at the same job for years and only move to get better pay and opportunities.


That is a lot different than someone who hops from fast food job to fast food job every few months.


[ctt template=”11″ link=”48_dj” via=”no” ]There is no reason to waste your time showing your property without some minimum guidelines in place.[/ctt]


Look at it this way, anyone can find a bad tenant!  Your challenge is to talk to everyone you meet and listen to what they have to say, ask relevant questions and find that great tenant.


The one that all landlords dream about but usually don’t take the time to find!