Quick Guide to Effective Tenant Screening in Jacksonville

Screening the tenants for your Jacksonville rental property is advantageous since this protects your rental during the tenancy. If you skip the process to try and streamline getting a tenant in, you may face potential problems in the future. Tenant screening ensures that they’re the right fit.

As a landlord, it pays to know how to identify the best tenants for your Jacksonville unit. These are tenants who pay the rent promptly and treat your rental home with care by maintaining it well. There are the things to look for that sets apart the high-quality renters:

  • Can meet the rent demands
  • Has a stable job or source of income
  • Shows timely rent payment in the past
  • No relevant criminal record
  • Dutiful in performing tenant responsibilities

If you would like to learn more about how to screen prospective tenants, keep on reading!

Pre-Screening Tenants

It’s advisable to prepare the minimum criteria you want a prospective renter to meet before you start the full tenant screening process. This way, you can customize the selection process to fit the standards you’ve set.

Before starting the detailed filtering of prospective renters, you can start with pre-screening to avoid wasting time. This means having a full requirement list and asking the potential tenants critical questions before arranging a property showing.

two people in suits shaking hands in front of window

A pre-screening allows you to see if any red flags come up so you can spare the full effort of extensively screening a renter.

Rental Application Review

It’s important to have prospects fill out a rental application. A proper rental application should have:

  • The applicant’s contact information
  • Present residence address and landlord’s name and contact details
  • Previous residence and rental history including the landlord’s name and contact
  • Present and former employers, job title, salary, employment length, and work references with contact information
  • Credit and background check authorization from the applicant

Finding out how much income renters make is vital to learn if they can pay the rent dues. A good mark to hit is at least 3x the rental rate. This is adjustable however since you can consider other factors like lack of debt.

Once you’ve completed this phase, it’s time to reach out to references and start the credit and background check. During this step, make sure to keep an eye out for signs of rental scams.

Tenant Income and Employment Verification

It’s necessary to check the prospects’ employment to know if they’ve been honest with reporting their actual earnings. You can compare this to the range disclosed by the references.

Some of the renters may also instruct their friends or family members to pretend to be former landlords to breeze through the application but you can catch this by inquiring about an available unit before launching into asking about the prospect.

person holding pen looking over renter application

To verify a prospect’s employer, you need to review the policy of company. There may be a designated email address or phone number that you can contact to verify employment. You can find this before directly contacting the employer.

Vital Questions to Present to Previous Landlords

It’s important to learn why a renter may be moving out. An effective way is to interview both the current and previous landlord.

The present landlord may not tell you all the details but the older landlords won’t have a reason to hide information. You want to ask whether the prospective renter paid rent late, caused damage to the property, or was a source of complaints for noise and disturbance.

Vital Questions to Present to Employers

Whether you email or call an employer for verification, you should ensure that a prospect can pay the rent by inquiring about:

  • The renter’s period of employment
  • The job title
  • Salary range
  • Level of responsibility

Not all employers will reveal all this data and you may only find out the applicant’s employment status and employment period. Another way to acquire information should the renter’s employer refuse to provide answers is to study the credit report.

Through this, you can gain a glimpse of the financial health of the renter.

property manager on phone calling tenants employers for reference

An extensive tenant screening lets you know if a renter can indeed afford to pay the rent dues. Should a fake reference be submitted, you can always seek more information for verification.

Tenant Credit Reports and Background Check Analysis

The following are important things to learn when conducting a prospect’s background check:

  • Credit score
  • Eviction history
  • Criminal record
  • Complete account history
  • Social security number verification

A credit score tagged at 680 or more is considered good. The goal is to find a renter with a clean record, meaning no outstanding debt, criminal history, or past evictions.

Accepting or Denying a Prospect’s Application

After all the steps above have been accomplished, you can now determine whether to issue an acceptance or rejection. You can let the applicant know through a call or email if your answer is yes. You then have to lead them to the next stage of the application which is the signing of the lease.

If you decide not to accept an applicant, you can write or email them. This can be evidence of turning them down. The message should be simple and direct. You can choose not to provide any reason unless the applicant asks.

Ensure that your reason is legal. You can turn down applicants on the grounds of low credit scores or inadequate income. That said, you must always comply with the Fair Housing Laws and not dismiss applicants based on their gender, religion, race, and other factors covered by the law.

Bottom Line

As a Jacksonville property owner, it’s understandable to protect your investment. You can make this easier by performing a meticulous tenant screening before welcoming new occupants into your unit. Even once you've landed a tenant, if you're looking to renew their lease, you should perform another screening to ensure the tenant's situation hasn't changed.

If you would like help with this, or any other aspect of property management, contact the team at Gifford Properties & Management today!

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Andrew Gifford and his team of professionals are easily the best realtors and property managers that I have ever worked with. They provide first rate service in an extremely timely manner. Whether you are a landlord, tenant, or prospective real estate buyer, I highly recommend the services of Andrew Gifford and his real estate team for all your property needs!

Jeff Tillman