How to Choose the Right Tenant: Tenant Prescreening and Screening Tips

It’s every Florida landlord’s dream to find a great tenant. That is, someone who is understanding, respectful, responsible, and above everything else, pays their rent on time.

Sadly, finding such a tenant isn’t as easy as it might seem. It requires experience in the rental industry, as well as the ability to know how to weed out the bad prospective tenants from the good.

If you are a landlord looking for advice on how to screen your Fleming Island tenants, you are in luck. The following 4-step guide will help you choose the right resident for your rental property.

Tenant Prescreening and Screening Tips

Step One: Make your rental property rent-ready.

High-quality tenants expect high-quality living. The idea here is to make sure that your property looks great for your next tenant.

As a landlord, you have to make sure that your property is ready for occupation. That is, it’s presentable, healthy, and habitable. Remember, you are competing again hundreds of other Fleming Island and Jacksonville rental properties.

So, inspect your property and identify areas that could benefit from an upgrade. Does the paint look scuffed or dingy? If so, consider repainting your property. Does the carpet look like it had better days? What about the appliances?

By improving certain features in your rental property, you can attract more tenants, which will ultimately increase your chance of finding the right one.

Step Two: Create a detailed rental property listing.

The next step after refreshing your property’s appeal is to come up with a rental listing. A good rental listing rental will attract the most suitable applicants for your property.

If done properly, you have the opportunity to filter out the unqualified prospects before they even make contact.


Well, besides providing a property description in your listing, you can inform tenants on the rental application process that will take place if they are interested in the property. Mention in your online listing that all applicants must pass a tenant background check before being approved. We will talk more about this in step four.


Other things that go into creating an effective rental listing ad are the title and the photos. The best rental listings have a catchy headline that is short, captivating, and straight to the point. They also include high-quality pictures. High-quality pictures will help make your ad stand out among hundreds of others.

It is also important that your good rental ad conforms to the Florida rental laws. Specifically, conforms to the Fair Housing Law. Basically, this means writing a rental ad blurb that is free from any form of discrimination.

As such, avoid including statements such as:

  • “Great for working folks or students.”
  • “Suits mature individual or couple.”
  • “Perfect for a male student.”
  • “Suitable for single professional.”

When you include such statements in a rental ad, it can be taken as you only rent to a specific type of people (which is discriminative).

Step Three: Pre-screen all potential tenants.

Now that your rental advertisement is live you’ll start receiving inquiries. It can be through texts, phone calls or emails. This would be a good time to start your tenant screening… well, pre-screening.

For the pre-screening to be successful, you need to prepare some questions to ask the prospective tenant. Questions that will help you gather some information about the potential applicants.

Pre-screening helps save time for both you and the prospective renter. For example, if you have a “no pet” policy and they have a pet, you won’t have to spend your time showing your property to an unqualified renter.

Just like the rental ad, it’s important that these questions are fair to all. That means asking the same questions to each and every tenant. The last thing you want is to end up in court due to tenant discrimination.

So, what questions should you ask your potential Fleming Island or Jacksonville tenant? Well, here are some to get you started.

  • Why are you moving? Look for legitimate reasons for moving such as to get closer to the new place of work or wanting more room.
  • When will you move in? Look for a reasonable time. If a tenant wants to move in immediately, it could be a sign of trouble.
  • How long did you live in your current residence? Tenant turnover can be costly. So avoid tenants who move frequently.
  • What is your average income? Look for a tenant who has enough income to afford rent. Ideally, look for a tenant making no less than two- and a half times the price of rent.
  • Have you been evicted before? A tenant with a history of eviction is a sign of trouble.
  • Will you agree to a credit and background check? If they oblige, great! But if they don’t, then it’s likely they may be hiding something. Continue your search.

Step Four: Conduct a tenant background check and crosscheck their references.

When a tenant signs the rental application, they are giving you permission to run a background check, and contact provided references. A background check is key to your tenant screening process. It gives you a chance to verify the information they provided you with.

It may also help you unearth crucial information that the tenant may have failed to mention during the pre-screening session.

A credit report, for example, can help you reveal the true financial status of your tenant. While the tenant may seem to be making enough to afford rent, he or she may have substantial debt that you may otherwise not have known about without a credit check. It’s also to your advantage to conduct a criminal background check.


In addition, you may also want to contact the potential renter’s previous landlords. Ask them a few questions to get to know the interested renter better. Would the landlord want to rent to the tenant again? If not, why? Did the tenant pay rent on time? Did the tenant violate any of the lease terms?

Another important reference to contact would be the tenant’s previous employer. Verify their job information and make sure their stories are consistent.

Step Five: Making the final decision and signing the lease agreement.

Has the tenant made the cut? If not, don’t settle, keep the search going. If they have, then the next step would be to sign the lease.

To ensure your landlord-tenant relationship remains on good terms throughout the tenancy, clearly explain all terms of the lease or rental agreement prior to signing. This will help prevent any misunderstandings from arising between you and the renter. It is also less likely that a renter will violate the lease terms when they are made aware of them from the start.

Renting to the right tenant is key. He or she will care for your property, pay rent on time, and cause fewer problems for you. However, to get a qualified tenant, you need to have a good screening process in place.

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Lashanda Barnes