General tenant verification
You need to make sure their ID is valid and authentic, and double-check their address history against their credit report. Do they match up? You should also verify their employment by calling their employer (past ones, too) and making sure they’re being truthful about their job history and earnings.
Criminal background checks
Do a thorough tenant background search that covers not just national criminal records but state ones, too. You should also conduct a sex offender search -- especially if your rental property is near a school or community center.
Credit score checks
Always pull a full credit report for any tenant you’re considering. Check the tenant’s credit report for bankruptcies, overdue balances, and other negative marks, and look at the balances on their current debts and obligations. Does it leave enough to comfortably cover their new rent, utilities, and other costs?
You should also look at their credit score. It’s a good reflection of their overall risk, as well as their ability to meet their financial obligations.
Generating an eviction report is critical, too. In fact, you should get a full rental history (at least for the last 5 years) so you can verify each address and speak with their past landlords, too. Important questions to ask past landlords include:
Many tenant screening services offer extra evaluation tools -- things like resident or tenant scores that predict their chance of late payment and eviction. If you’re on the fence about a tenant or are comparing several applicants at once, these ratings can be a helpful decision-making tool to have.
What it looks like
At the end of the day, you want your tenant screening report to be as detailed as possible. It should include the applicant’s name and contact information, financial details, credit info, rental history, eviction and bankruptcy cases, and much, much more.
View a sample report to get an idea of what you should be aiming for. If you use a professional service, you can typically expect to pay anywhere from $10 to $40, depending on how thorough it is. In many cases, you can pass that cost off to the applicant.