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How thorough is your tenant screening process?

Protecting your investment is one of the first steps to being a successful landlord. Insurance, safety features and upgrades are all ways you protect your tenants. What is your protection from an unsuitable tenant? A thorough screening of a prospective tenant is one way you can keep your valuable property from falling into the wrong hands.

A tenant screening begins with having the potential renter fill out a detailed application. Information requested on the form should include:

• Full name of applicant

• Social security number

• Contact information

• Employer information

• Employment record

• Current and previous rental information

• References - personal and professional

Don't be hesitant to request that they fill the form out completely. It is important to gather as much information as possible about a potential resident.

An applicant must be informed of and give their permission for any background and credit checks. A signature line should be included on the application to verify that the information provided is true.

You should also request to see a photo ID to verify some of the information provided on the application. You may even want to attach a photocopy of the I.D. to the application. The completed application allows you to verify the information given.

A landlord has many options when it comes to screening tenants. Services are available that provide a broad range of services for every budget: basic services such as credit checks to more extensive services that include a full background check. An extremely busy landlord may even want a service that makes phone calls to verify the basic information with employers and references. By obtaining the following, your decision will be easier to make:

• Credit check - A credit check will reveal an applicant's credit history and debt obligations. It will inform you of any delinquencies and collection. This information may reveal an applicant's likelihood to pay their rent in a timely manner.

• Background check - A background check may reveal criminal activity, eviction history and even some undisclosed financial matters such as liens or bankruptcy. This may give you an insight into the character and integrity of your potential tenant.

A standardized tenant screening process that includes a detailed application and utilizes a screening service will help you make a beneficial decision.