Starting a tenancy

Sharpening Your Edge: The Ninja Tenant Screening Process

You have got your property on the rental market. A number of potential tenants have toured the place and you have a nice selection of applications to choose from. Using the principles you learned from my Ninja Guide To The Tenant Screening Process, the pile is divided into “potentially great tenants” and “people you want nowhere near your property”. Of all the potentially great tenants, you can only choose one. For the sake of your sanity as a property owner, choosing the correct one is vitally important.

In the original Ninja Guide, we developed a killer strategy for the tenant screening process. As we make the final selection we will become even more ruthless and selective and that means asking the right questions to all references provided on the tenant application form. Remember that the Ninja Warrior uses all his skills to place himself in a position where he can deliver his killing blow in a single stroke. When you “pull the trigger” and offer your property to a tenant and sign the lease, there is no going back. For better or worse, they are the tenant and you’re the owner.

The Way of Tenant Screening

Your best source of information about your potential tenants will be the information they provide on their application. The ninja understands the information on the application is only of value if you follow-up and verify it. Reviewing documents like payslips, bank statements and reports on how they look after their current property is essential but to be certain this is all true there is nothing like asking specific questions to separate the good tenants from the best tenants.

Lets start with questions you can ask the person or owner in charge of managing their last property.

  • Did they pay their rent on time?
  • If they always paid the rent on time without any hassles, there is every reason they’ll continue that for you. Ask if they can email you a print out of the all the tenants payments - just to see for yourself.
  • Did they look after the property?
  • Ask if they did routine inspections and how they left the property during these inspections. Was the property clean and well presented for the inspection? Was there any problem setting up the inspection appointment? Was there any damage?
  • Would you rent to them again?
  • This is a powerful question, perhaps the most telling in the whole tenant screening process. If you ask one question make sure this is it. If the applicants had amicable relations with their previous owner, you can have a reasonable expectation that you will as well. Feel free to ask what sort of people they are.
  • Was the bond refunded in full? Or will it be refunded in full?
  • If they believe there will be issues when it comes time to refunding the bond this will give a great indication to how the tenancy unfolded. Sometimes money gets taken out of the bond as a way to avoid problems.

Employment Says a Lot

Speaking to the previous property owner can give a very accurate impression of the applicant’s behaviour as tenants, but it may not be a complete picture. You can fill in some of the blanks by following up on their employment record.

Employment verification has two important purposes. One is to ensure that the applicant can in fact afford to pay the rent, and continue to pay for the life of the lease. The other is that you’ll find people who are good employees tend to make better tenants.

  • When speaking to their supervisor, explain that you are confirming the applicants' earning and employment claims.
  • How long have you been with the organisation and what are they earning?
  • Verify this against the information provided on the rental application.
  • Do you think they will be working with you in 6 months time?
  • If the supervisor says “I hope so” this is a great sign!

Select For Character

Character references are more difficult to evaluate, but may give more useful information about your applicant you won’t get from talking to employers and other property owners. Your task is to determine whether a reference from this person carries merit. References from high status positions like community leaders will obviously carry more weight than a reference listed as “a Friend”.

Position your questions to get an accurate picture of the sort of person your applicant is and to the type of person they associate themselves with.

  • How long have you known them?
  • How do you know them? Is it a personal or professional relation?
  • Do you think they will be a good tenant?
  • Do you think we’ll have any problems with them as a tenant?

Engage the Tenant Screening Process

This seems like a lot of information to verify, and it is. That is the reason we culled the best applications from the pile before we began the verification process. Keep in mind that for the sake of your investment in the property, as well as your piece of mind, the effort you put into the tenant screening process will be rewarded.

As prepared, ruthless and lethal as they were while on carrying out their tasks, when the mission was over the Ninja faded into the background and took up life as an ordinary citizen. In a similar way, your reward for the diligent screening of you applicants will be peaceful relations with your new tenants.

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