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Tenant screening is an important topic when you have Southern Maryland rental property, and we’re sharing some of the things you can do to ensure you’re putting the best quality tenant in your rental home.

Before you have any prospective tenants, create a listing that demonstrates your criteria. Make sure you include your credit requirements, the type of rental history you expect, whether you’ll accept pets, and all those details. Make it clear before you start showing the property what those expectations are. You don’t want to waste time showing the house to people who are not qualified. Be careful not to describe what kind of renter you want. Put down qualifications, but don’t talk about anything that will violate fair housing laws. Get help from a southern Maryland property management company if you can.

Prescreen All Tenants

When someone calls about your listing, talk to them before you show the property. Prescreen everyone over the phone. Ask open ended questions to see if they say anything that would disqualify them. If you ask them things directly, they will say whatever they think you want to hear. But if you ask an open ended question and they say something that indicates they won’t meet your qualifications, you can move on. In our part of southern Maryland, half the people who call us are not qualified to rent our properties.

Showing the Property

Once you find someone who is qualified to rent, show them the home. When they arrive for the showing, notice whether they are on time. If they are respectful of you and your time now, they will be just as respectful when they become your tenants. See if they’re nitpicky. Some things do need to be addressed, but if they complain about every single thing, you probably don’t want to rent to them. Once they move in, you’ll have to deal with those complaints consistently.

Provide a Rental Application

Send a detailed rental application to interested tenants. Everyone 18 and over must fill it out. Sometimes one spouse will have better credit than the other or children who are college-aged may have criminal records. So you want to get an application from every adult who will be living there. Tell them you’ll be screening and collect an application fee. People who know they won’t qualify aren’t going to waste money on an application fee.

Conduct the Screening

Check and see if the tenants earn enough money. Get real pay stubs and ask for identification so you can match up who they say they are. Run their credit through Experian or other credit agencies. Look at the Maryland Judiciary Case Search website, where you simply have to type in a name and you’ll see if there’s anything going on criminally. Check and see what their previous rental history is like. An apartment complex or management company will be able to give you a valuable reference. Be careful if they give you the name of someone they claim was their landlord. You may find this is fake. If you cannot verify the landlord, ask for copies of checks showing they paid rent every month on time. Bank statements and hard documents don’t lie. Verifying that rent was paid on time at a previous residence is the best way to ensure you get paid on time once they move into your property.

Collect a Deposit

Go ahead and draft a lease and give them 24 – 48 hours to sign it and pay the security deposit. Usually if someone will give you one full month’s rent as a deposit, they won’t back out of the lease. Include in the lease that you’ll keep the deposit if they do back out.

Finally, when they are ready to move in, make sure you take the first month’s rent in certified funds. If a personal check bounces after they move in, you have to go through the eviction process. They will get to stay in your house for six to 12 weeks while you evict without having paid a cent.

If you have a Southern Maryland property manager to help you with screening, the process will be thorough and reliable. Please contact us at Real Property Management Gold if you have any questions or need some assistance with screening tenants.

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