A Helpful Guide to the Tenant Screening Process

A Helpful Guide to the Tenant Screening Process

Almost 30 percent of South Carolina households are renters. Finding tenants should be easy with so many people in the market for rental units.

But you can't assume that everyone who wants to rent your property will be a good tenant. You want renters who'll pay their rent on time, take care of your property, and be good neighbors. 

To find them, you'll need to establish a tenant screening process. This guide will outline the basic steps.

Tenant Screening Dos and Don'ts

Your tenant screening process should be designed to help you find quality renters and weed out the riskier applicants. You'll consider income, rental and credit history, and other factors in choosing renters. 

But you should be aware that both federal law and South Carolina's Fair Housing Act bar you from using the following for tenant screening:

  • Race
  • Color
  • Religion
  • National Origin/Ethnic Background
  • Gender
  • Familial Status (pregnant or has children)
  • Mental/Physical Disability

It's okay to ask about rental history, including where they live now and why they want to move. You can ask about pets, including types, sizes, and breeds. And it's okay to ask if they smoke.

Initial Questions to Ask

The rental application is the first step you'll use to screen tenants. Use it to collect names, Social Security numbers, dates of birth, and current employer or income source. You should require answers to all the application questions. 

Then, verify the information, starting with their identity. It's essential to ask for proof of identity, like a government-issued ID. 

Rental identity theft is on the rise. You don't want to be a victim. If you rent to an identity thief, you may not be able to collect unpaid rent or property damage expenses. 

Income and Credit History

As part of your tenant background check, you'll want to verify employment or source of income. You need to ensure they have sufficient resources to cover rent and other bills.

A thorough tenant screening process should include a full credit report too. Look for bankruptcies, late payments, and collections activity. Check the public records section for judgments against them for non-payment of rent or other bills. 

Criminal Background Check

Your tenant screening process should include a criminal background check. In South Carolina, criminal background checks are available through the State Law Enforcement Division (SLED) for a small fee.

Your tenant background check should also include a search of South Carolina's sex offender registry. And you should check registries in each state where the applicant has lived. This is especially important if your rental property is near a school, playground, or community center.

Getting References

As part of your tenant screening process, you'll want to ask about the rental history and prior residences. At the very least, you should ask about the past two years.

Be sure to get contact information for their current or most recent landlord. Talking with former landlords can give you a good idea of the kind of tenant they were. Did they pay rent on time, damage property, or throw wild parties? 

Find Qualified Tenants

As you can see, tenant screening can be a complex process. But it's critical to protect your investment. 

Even when you know the process, it can be challenging to find tenants who qualify financially, have a good rental history and want to stay long-term. Fortunately, you don't have to do it all yourself.

HomeRiver Group Columbia offers thorough tenant screening and personalized property management support. Contact us today to learn more and get a free rental analysis.

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