Quick Guide to Effective Tenant Screening in Rhode Island

Purchasing a rental property in Rhode Island can be a great investment. Despite being one of the smallest states in the country, Rhode Island has a high number of renters, and the need for rental accommodations is still on the rise.  

When renting out a property in Rhode Island, you must take steps to protect your investment. For instance, you can purchase and install high-quality security cameras to reduce the risk of property damage, theft, and vandalism. But, if you want to ensure your rental is safe throughout a tenancy, the best thing you can do is to screen all potential residents thoroughly. 

Landlords often overlook the screening process, but it’s the key to stress-free tenancies. This process can highly minimize the risk of eviction. Plus, knowing your rental is in good hands gives you peace of mind. Don’t know how to screen residents? We’ve got you covered! In this article, the experts at Stonelink Property Management will tell you all the tips and tricks for effectively screening residents in Rhode Island.  

Screening Potential Residents Effectively in 7 Simple Steps

Screening potential renters doesn’t have to be an overly complicated and drawn-out process. At Stonelink Property Management, we know you can effectively do this in seven quick steps. Keep reading to learn more!

1. Understand Local Fair Housing Laws

Fair housing laws prohibit landlords from discriminating against prospective renters based on race, color, religion, sex, familial status, or national origin. 

glasses set on top of a document on a desk

Rhode Island fair housing laws include more than the seven protected classes mentioned above. These additional protected classes are military status, lawful source of income, housing status, age, and being a victim of domestic. 

Understanding the local fair housing laws will ensure you give all prospective renters an equal chance at renting your property. Landlords who don’t comply with fair housing laws can face legal action, damage to their business’ reputation, and costly fees.

2. Set Your Criteria

Before you begin the screening process, you must first determine what you’re looking for in a potential resident. The best way to get this done is by listing the qualities and minimum criteria your future residents must meet. Here are some basic examples of what to look for in a renter:

  • Has a stable job.
  • Makes enough money to afford rent.
  • Has good references from former landlords.
  • Has good credit.

Of course, this list can change or grow depending on your and your rental property’s needs. At the end of the day, you want to find residents whose values adapt to yours, and that will take good care of your home. Knowing what you’re looking for before screening potential residents can greatly help you achieve this.

a property manager with short black hair and a close-cropped beard reviews a tenant application at their desk while wearing a yellow crewneck sweater

3. Set Up a Pre-Screening Process

Pre-screening potential renters can save you a lot of time and effort. You can make sure your expectations match the interested renter’s by adding some of your minimum requirements to your rental listing. For instance, stating that you don’t accept pets will ensure renters with pets don’t apply.

Another great way to pre-screen potential residents is to meet them in person by showing them the property. This way, they’ll be able to ask you any questions they have about the rental while you can learn more about them and determine whether they’ll be a good fit for your property.

4. Review Applications

Having prospective residents fill out an application form, whether it’s online or on paper, goes a long way. Make sure to ask for information such as:

  • Full name.
  • Contact information.
  • Current address.
  • Rental history, including previous landlords’ names and contact information.
  • Employment status, including proof of income and their current employer’s contact information.
  • Authorization to run a credit and background check.
  • References, whether it be former landlords, roommates, or employers.

5. Contact References

One of the biggest mistakes landlords make when screening renters is not contacting previous landlords. You can learn whether a potential resident will be problematic with a simple call. After all, no one can give you a better idea of what a renter is like than their former landlord.

One person packing moving boxes on a bed while another person sits in a chair using a moving box as a desk for their laptop

Likewise, it’s important to call any other references, including current and past employers. This will allow you to double-check the information potential residents gave you and get to know them better. 

6. Run Credit and Background Checks

The last step of the screening process is to conduct credit and background checks on all prospective residents. This can help you determine whether a renter is trustworthy and responsible. 

For instance, good credit is a sign that someone is responsible and makes payments on time, which are two qualities you want in a resident. A clean criminal background is also often a sign of a good and responsible renter.

7. Accept or Deny Applications

Finally, the last step is to accept or deny the applications you’ve received. If you follow the steps outlined below, you’ll have a higher chance of finding great residents. Once you’ve determined which applicant is the best fit for your rental, call them or email them to let them know you’ve selected them. Then, you can get started on writing their lease!

It would be best if you also let other applicants know that their application was declined. To avoid misunderstandings, it’s best to do this in writing, in the form of an email or a formal letter. Keep it brief and avoid explaining why you declined their application unless an applicant asks. 

Bottom Line

Screening potential residents is one of the simplest ways to ensure your rental property is protected during a tenancy. Luckily, the screening process doesn’t have to be overly complicated! 

All you have to do is create a list of minimum requirements, review each application to ensure it matches what you’re looking for, contact previous tenants, and run background checks. Doing all of this can greatly increase your chances of finding great residents!

Don’t have time to screen rental applicants? We can help you! At Stonelink Property Management, we’ve over 20 years of experience placing qualified residents in our client’s rentals. Contact us today to learn more!

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