Guide to Screening Tenants for Your Available Rental Properties

Available Rental Properties | Screen TenantsFinding tenants for available rental properties isn’t as simple as securing any tenant to occupy the space and collecting rent checks. There’s an important and potentially lengthy screening process you should undergo before allowing a business or residential tenant to move into your coveted space. Follow these four steps to ensure you find the best possible tenant and agree upon ideal lease terms for your available rental property for lease.

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1.) Prepare questions for an initial phone meeting.

Anyone could talk a good game, but be prepared to ask detailed and open-ended questions of the prospective tenants for your available rental properties. In doing so, you’ll be better equipped to choose a quality candidate. The first set of questions should be conducted in an interview via phone, followed by an in-person meeting.

The phone interview should enable you to get essential information from each prospect:

  1. Obtain their full name, date of birth, and personal contact information.
  2. Find out why they want to move in, and when.
  3. Inquire about the type of business they conduct (if you have commercial property for rent).
  4. Ask how long they plan on renting from you at the specific location in question.

The next step seems just as obvious as conducting an interview, but indeed, it’s a crucial one.


2.) Meet in-person and request that they fill out an application.

If you’re comfortable meeting based on the responses to the questions above, follow up with an in-person interview. Take this opportunity to ask follow-up questions to the answers previously provided. Meeting in-person so will give you a better feel for who the prospective tenant is, based on appearance, non-verbal communication cues, and overall presentation. This is not entirely a “judging-a-book-by-its-cover” situation, but you’ll need to make a decision; what you see from the prospective tenant of one of your commercial rental properties will help you make that decision. A sloppy look or a vehicle in poor condition might give you the impression that your space won’t be treated very well; someone who doesn’t come across as respectful or courteous may cause problems after they’re already occupying your rental space.

Aside from an extended interview, it’s critical that you request the prospective tenant fills out an application. Their application will provide you with information vital to making your decision on the ultimate tenant for one of your available rental properties. In Columbus, Ohio, there are tenant screening laws. Most states or major cities have laws in place to protect both the tenant and landlord; therefore, check with your local government or real estate lawyer.

If you’re having a prospect fill out an application for one of your available rental properties in Columbus, Ohio, make sure you adhere to the local laws. Below are just a few:

  • There is no limit on the amount that landlords may charge for an application fee.
  • The application fee is non-refundable.
  • Security deposits are separate from application fees and paid at different parts of the process.

The application will provide the information necessary to complete a thorough background check. Details such as social security number, prior landlord contact information, business references, personal references, and a signature allowing for a release of information (which will enable you to conduct the background search) are typically included.

(Related Tip: Make sure your commercial rental property has nice curb appeal.)


3.) The all-important references… Be sure to contact them and ask questions.

Someone could be a great salesperson when they’re talking about themselves; however, you could often get a much clearer image of an interviewee when speaking with those who know that person well. From the second step in the screening process, we’ve made mention of references; after you’ve had your first two interviews and received the application, it’ll be time to make use of them. The prospective tenant’s personal contacts were probably meticulously selected to make him/her look like the world’s greatest living human being; so do a good job of asking questions in a way that will elicit an accurate answer, not the fluffed-up kind. When calling the landlord references, the line of questions asked should be more direct. Since the responses are coming from another landlord, this should give you an idea as to how you will be treated by the prospective tenant of your residential or commercial rental property.

The questions for the previous landlord may be along the lines of the following:

  1. Did anyone complain about them when they occupied your space? If yes, why?
  2. How did the rental space look when they left? Was it in the same condition as when they first moved in?
  3. Did they always pay their rent on time? Were there any issues concerning payment?
  4. Was their business, employees, or customers disruptive to your other tenants (if it was a commercial space for rent)?
  5. Were they or their guests disruptive to your other tenants (if it was a residential space for rent)?


4.) Protect Yourself with an iron-clad lease agreement for your available rental properties

Each state sets their own rules and regulations regarding residential and commercial leases of available rental properties. However, across all states, these two types of leases have many similarities, but there are also many differences. By executing a lease, both parties are agreeing upon suitable terms, such as permitted uses, rates, rental term, utilities, repairs and alterations, and responsibilities of the tenant and landlord. Make sure you research your local lease agreement laws to ensure maximum protection.

Residential Lease Agreement

A residential lease is an agreement between an individual tenant(s) and landlord for the use of a specific property for his/her living arrangement, at a certain cost over a fixed period; the term can be as short as month-to-month, as well as six months, or a year. A typical residential lease is executed for a residence in a house, townhouse, duplex, condominium, an apartment, and a room for rent. The property cannot be used for commercial purposes, such as the sale of services, goods, or manufacturing products. States usually build in more protections for tenants of residential leases, as opposed to commercial leases. This is because — as silly as it may sound — residential tenants are presumed not to have the level of knowledge of commercial tenants, who are presumed to be on an equal level with his/her landlord regarding the negotiations of a lease.

Commercial Lease Agreement

A commercial lease is an agreement between a business tenant and landlord for use of a specific property for commercial purposes; this typically includes the sale of services, goods, or manufacturing products to generate a profit. The rent is often based on a specified amount of square footage that will be occupied by the tenant; sometimes the tenant must also pay the landlord a percentage of their gross profit. As with a residential lease, a commercial lease is usually set over a fixed period; however, commercial lease terms are usually for one year or a number of years, with the option to renew. A typical commercial lease is executed for a business to use office space in a commercial building or an industrial property, as well as space in a shopping mall or strip mall, or warehouse space. The property cannot be used for residential purposes, such as day-to-day living and sleeping.

(Related Tip: Learn how to negotiate office space for lease.)


The Robert Weiler Company: Central Ohio’s Commercial Real Estate Experts Since 1938

For almost 80 years, The Robert Weiler Company has provided Central Ohio’s commercial real estate buyers and sellers with top-notch CRE services to ensure the highest ROI. If you are in need of a property management company to handle everything from lease negotiations to tenant management, and maintenance, our property managers can assist. Or if you are selling or looking to buy available rental properties for sale, our commercial brokers can help. Call us at 614-221-4286 to have all of your questions answered.


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