Tenant Screening: A Helpful Guide for Long-term Tenant Retention in Austin - Article Banner

When you’re screening for Austin tenants, you’re looking for what all landlords are looking for: verifiable income, a strong rental history, and acceptable credit. You want a tenant who is likely to follow the terms of the lease agreement and help you maintain your home. 

You should also think about tenant retention when you’re looking for the right resident. While this isn’t always easy to screen for, you can get an idea about whether a potential tenant is looking for a long-term home or simply a place to stay for a year. 

Understanding how to communicate with prospective tenants and evaluate applications will help you find a good tenant who is likely to renew their lease agreement year after year. Remember, too, that it’s important to follow all fair housing laws. You must screen every tenant consistently, and that’s why we recommend a set of written rental criteria. 

Screen your tenants for all the usual qualities you look for in a good renter, and see what you can do to ensure you’re talking with someone who wants to commit to your property for more than a single lease term. 

Here’s how we do it.

Why is Retention a Factor?

High tenant turnover costs you money. Not only are you stuck with a vacancy for an undetermined amount of time, but you’re also dealing with the costs of preparing a property for new tenants. You’ll have to make repairs and replacements, think about cosmetic upgrades, and provide cleaning and landscaping services before you can market the home again. 

When you can retain tenants, you earn more money. That’s why you want to place tenants who are more likely to stay in place for longer.

Create a Set of Standard Rental Criteria

Put together a profile of your ideal tenant. 

This will allow you to set some standards that will be used to evaluate all applicants. Look for a specific income-to-rent ratio so you trust your tenant will be able to pay rent on time every month. Some landlords will set a credit threshold that needs to be met before they’re approved. You can require rental references from previous landlords. Establish what you’re willing to accept in terms of past evictions and criminal histories as well. 

Tenant screening should include a complete tenant background check. 

Put these criteria in writing and provide the document to every potential applicant. This will save everyone time and money. If a prospect can see they don’t earn enough or may be disqualified because of bad credit or a recent eviction, they won’t bother applying.

Pre-Screening Can Help Identify Qualified Austin Renters

The rental criteria you provide will save you and potential applicants time if they’re not qualified. Pre-screening your tenants can also help. Save yourself the time of showing properties to tenants who may not meet your requirements. You can ask a few questions of your own when they get in touch to schedule showings or request more information. Ask some general and legally compliant questions, including:

  • When are you looking to move? You don’t want to leave your move-in ready property vacant for too long, so you’re looking for a tenant who is ready to move within a few weeks or a month.
  • What’s your budget? Talk about the monthly rent. You can explain what your income requirements are, and ask if they meet those standards.
  • Do you have any prior evictions or criminal convictions that will show up on our background check? Letting potential applicants know that you’ll be checking will help them determine whether they have a chance at getting approved.
  • Do you have any pets? Whether you allow pets or you don’t, this will be an important qualifier for you and your prospective tenants. 

Here’s something interesting about pets. Statistics have shown that tenants with pets are more likely to stay in their rental homes for a longer period of time. They don’t like having to find a new home that allows their pets and they don’t want to continually pay a new pet fee every time they move. Actively welcoming tenants who have pets is not a bad idea when it comes to screening.

Ask Prospective Tenants to Complete a Comprehensive Rental Application

The rental application helps you screen for the best tenants and it also gives you a picture of who you’re potentially renting to. 

Make sure you’re using an application that’s been reviewed and approved by an attorney or an Austin property manager. You’ll want to collect all the pertinent information, such as:

  • Former addresses
  • Names and contact information for employers
  • Income information
  • Social security numbers and other identifying information. 

Most importantly, you’ll want to get a signature that grants you the permission that’s needed to run the necessary background, credit, and reference checks. Every adult who is 18 years of age or older should complete an application and be fully screened. 

Verify All Information on Your Application

During the screening process, you should obtain a credit report, look for prior evictions and criminal convictions, and make sure all the information that’s on the application matches what you find on the credit report. 

Best practices say that qualified tenants will earn at least three times the monthly rent. You’ll want to see responsible use of debt when you’re reviewing the credit report. Tenants who have had utility accounts shut off are a bit of a risk. If there are damages or lawsuits from former landlords, that might be a red flag. 

Pay Attention to Rental History

Check Rental HistoryExamine rental history closely when you’re thinking about tenant retention. 

Talk to current and former landlords or property managers to get an idea of how the tenant performed while renting a home from them. Were there late payments? Did the security deposit get returned in full? Was proper notice given before the tenant moved out? How did the pets treat the property?

How long did they stay?

If you’re looking at an application for someone who moved every few months or didn’t make it to the end of a lease term, you might want to reject that application. 

We can help with tenant screening, and we can also put together a tenant retention plan that will help you have a more profitable rental experience. Please contact us at Austin Landmark Property Services, Inc., CRMC ® – A Certified Residential Management Company. We serve the Austin area and Central Texas including Travis, Williamson, Hays, Bastrop, and Bell counties.