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Quick Guide to Effective Tenant Screening in Jacksonville, FL

Quick Guide to Effective Tenant Screening in Jacksonville, FL

As a landlord, it’s important you find great tenants for your Jacksonville Rental Property. Without a proper tenant screening process, you risk placing a problematic tenant in your rental unit. A problematic tenant can lead to complaints from neighbors, damage to your newly renovated property, and late or missed rent payments, which can all negatively affect your return on investment or ROI.

What Is an Ideal Tenant?

You need to know what kind of renter you want to occupy your Jacksonville investment property. Some characteristics you might look for in a potential tenant include:

  • Can easily afford the rent.

  • Holds a steady job.

  • Good tenant history showing regular rent payments.

  • No criminal record.

  • No eviction record.

Before you meet with prospective renters, you need to consider what qualities you’re looking for in a tenant. It’s best to have a list of criteria to filter applicants more easily. Make sure your tenant screening process focuses on the qualities you seek in a tenant.

How Do I Conduct Pre-Screening?

Pre-screening is essential for landlords. Done properly, pre-screening will narrow your tenant search and save you time and energy down the line.

When advertising your rental property, it’s best to provide specific details about your rental property that will grab a renter’s attention. Ask targeted questions when talking with the potential tenant. Show up during the property tour to gauge the prospective renter in person and gain additional information.

Other things you might do before thoroughly screening your tenants include:

  • Mentioning authorization to perform a tenant background check. You can mention this in your property listing.

  • Asking prospective tenants questions. Why are they looking to move? What are their current rental conditions like? When do they plan to move? You can also inquire if they smoke and are open to having roommates.

  • Taking note of a potential renter’s actions. If the potential renter is on time for the property showing of your Jacksonville rental home, it can indicate they’re responsible. Are they asking for more information about the rental property? If they’re open to a credit and background check, engage a lot with you and are willing to complete the rental application quickly, these are positive signs. 

Pre-screening can help you catch potential issues and problematic renters more easily. Unqualified renters will rarely fulfill the requirements and might even continuously postpone submitting the application. Since pre-screening narrows your tenant search, you’re able to focus your time on interested renters who actually qualify to rent your unit.

How Do I Evaluate a Rental Application?

You can obtain plenty of vital information through a rental application. We suggest you create a form that asks for the following:

  • Renter contact information.

  • Current address and their landlord’s name and contact information.

  • Former list of rental addresses including former landlords’ names and contact information.

  • Current and former employers, including job titles, salary, length of employment, and references to contact.

  • Credit and background check authorization.

You need to know the income level of a prospective renter to determine whether they’re able to pay rent regularly. A good rule of thumb is to require an income that’s triple the rent rate. This depends on a tenant’s circumstances however, since a renter might earn less than 3x the rent price but have no heavy financial responsibilities or outstanding debts to pay.

How Do I Verify a Tenant's Income and Employment?

It’s essential to verify the income and employment of a prospective renter to know whether they’ve been honest with you. Contacting employers also helps you find out if a renter’s narrative aligns with what their references are saying. By contacting current and former employers, you can avoid placing a tenant in your home who might miss or fail to pay rent.

Another great way to verify a tenant’s income is by asking applicants for their W-2, pay stubs and offer letters with salaries included.

Why Should I Contact Former Landlords?

You don’t want to limit your inquiries to a renter’s current landlord. If the current landlord wants a problematic renter to move from their premises, they might not be honest with you.

Since former landlords aren’t presently connected to the tenant, they have no reason to lie to you. They can tell you if a renter is problematic and prone to rent payment delays. They can also tell you if the tenant was a source of disturbance and if property damage occurred.

What Do I Need to Consider When Assessing Tenant Credit Reports and Background Checks?

Extensive background checks include assessing a renter’s complete account history, credit score, eviction records, and criminal history. Look for a credit score of 680 or higher to be safe. Don’t forget to look at any outstanding debts, past evictions and criminal reports. You want to find financially responsible tenants for your Jacksonville rental home.

How Do I Accept or Deny a Prospective Tenant?

After completing these critical steps, it’s time to make a decision. You can call or email a renter with positive news. Inform them of the date and time they’ll be signing the lease. When rejecting an applicant, we suggest sending the message in writing so you have proof of turning down the application. 

If you’re wondering whether you need to share the reasons for declining an application, it’s not necessary unless the applicant pursues the subject. Make sure your reason doesn’t go against the Fair Housing Act. Denying a rental application due to one of the protected classes is illegal. You can only refuse a renter on the basis of failing to meet certain basic requirements, like having a bad credit score.

Bottom Line: The Importance of Proper Tenant Screening

If you want to protect yourself from the headache of a problematic renter, you need to properly screen your prospective renters. A thorough tenant screening process will help you find a tenant for your Jacksonville property who will pay their rent on time, respect their neighbors and your space.

You can also outsource this critical task to a reliable property management company like Nest Finders Property Management. Contact us today to learn more about tenant screening and our full-service property management services. You can reach us by dialing (904) 565-9040.