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3 Tips to Enhance Your Resident Screening Process for Better Rental Outcomes

Ah, yes, the daunting task of screening prospective residents. We all understand the importance, but that doesn't make it any less intimidating. The perceived goal isn't rocket science: find qualified renters, minimize risk, and preserve a positive experience for everyone in your apartment community. However, where owners, operators, and leasing teams often get tripped up is executing the screening process to meet these goals, all while following fair housing laws. Today's blog will tackle just that: how to screen tenants with better background checks, conduct interviews, and market your community to the right audience.

How to Run a Better Background Check

The most foundational step to creating a successful screening process is to run better background checks. With the right tools and systems, collecting and verifying information can be easier for renters and leasing agents.

The Importance of Comprehensive Background Checks for Resident Screening

A comprehensive background check includes rental, employment, credit, and criminal history. Why? A previous eviction or late payments can raise concerns or even lead to a rejected application. Employment history affirms a renter has a source of income to pay monthly rent, as most owners typically look for a renter whose income is three times the monthly rent. 

Communicating that you will be collecting and verifying all this information upfront allows your applicant to address any situation, such as a conviction on their criminal record, before a leasing agent or operator finds it on their background check.

The Benefits of Using a Reputable Online Resident Screening Service

Okay, but how does one confirm the prospect information provided to avoid falling for renter fraud? Consumer credit reporting agencies, like TransUnion, review applicants' credit, eviction, and criminal history to help reduce the risk of future evictions. Other reputable online options include services like RentPrep or RentSpree. It's worth paying the professionals who can tackle the screening process holistically with an online, user-friendly, streamlined system to keep applicant screening quick and easy.

Ensuring Privacy and FCRA Compliance in Resident Screening

Evaluating applicant information is helpful but only appropriate and constructive if used within legal boundaries. The Federal Trade Commission enforces the Fair Credit Report Act or FCRA to ensure that owners  follow procedure before obtaining consumer reports and taking adverse action based on that report. You must obtain permission to collect applicant information, such as background checks or references from previous management. Suppose, you must take adverse action based on the reports, such as denying an application or requiring a co-signer. In that case, you must notify the applicant in writing, electronically, or verbally. Following the FCRA requirements in all screening processes is essential to protect your residents.

Validating Data: Ensuring Accurate and Reliable Resident Screening

While relying on online services that perform comprehensive background checks is immensely helpful, taking extra steps to validate further data, such as calling references, including previous owners or current employers, is still important. It feels tedious, but this step helps complete your thorough screening process. Finally, this measure encourages applicants to know that each renter went through this process, meaning they can rest assured they will be living amongst good company if they move into your apartment community.

A property manager conducting an interview with a prospective resident.

How to Conduct Prospect Interviews

Applicant interviews allow both parties to discover if your community is a right fit for them. Prospective residents can ask questions while leasing agents can find valuable insights into a prospect’s desires and motivations for living in their community, which is helpful for further marketing and leasing efforts.

Uncovering Deeper Insights: Why Personal Interviews are Crucial for Resident Screening

A personal interview can provide valuable insights beyond what is on paper. It's an opportunity for you to screen applicants and understand your renter’s expectations so you can best serve them within reason. 

Suggested Questions to Uncover Responsibility and Reliability of Prospective Residents

None of your interview questions should infringe upon Fair Housing laws. You should never ask questions that discriminate against a protected class, such as asking if someone plans to have kids or if they have a disability. If you have doubts about what is legal and appropriate, it's always best to double-check fair housing laws to determine what questions are and aren't permitted. However, you could legally ask questions that reveal the applicant's level of responsibility,reliability, reasons for moving, and lifestyle habits. Questions including:  

How long have you lived in your current home?

Do you currently rent?

What are you looking for in a new home?

Do I have your consent to verify your information with references, background, and credit checks?
An interview is also the ideal time to listen and understand your potential renter's expectations to determine how you can best serve them if they sign a lease and decide to call your apartment community home. 

The Value of Virtual Interviews for Resident Screening

While many of us prefer the quality interaction that comes from face-to-face interaction, that may only sometimes be realistic. Your prospective resident may be moving from another state or between chaotic work schedules and commutes. It’s more convenient for both parties to find an available time if you open up virtual opportunities. Platforms like Zoom allow leasing teams to conduct interviews to continue the resident screening process. Not being able to attend an in-person interview shouldn’t be a disqualifier. 

Marketing Insights to Improve your Resident Screening Process

How Screening Process Data Reveals Resident Preferences and Motivations

The easiest and most crucial screening process involves attracting the appropriate audiences to apply in the first place. Tools like Quext Digital Human can reveal what kind of renters are attracted to your property and why. Sometimes, when you ask a renter why they rented with you or how they found your listing, they Don't provide the most accurate answers or leave out informative details that make up the whole story. However, the data doesn’t lie. Seeing patterns in approved applicants can fuel and refine your advertising and marketing strategies.

Understanding Tenant Interests and Needs: Enhancing Property Advertising and Improvements

Step one is to draw connections between resident interests and needs. Is your community center the common denominator amongst renters, or is it the open layout of your floor plan that most often seals the deal? Maybe during a tour, you mentioned all maintenance requests are answered and fulfilled within a specific time window, and that's what compelled your resident to sign their name on the lease, or perhaps the most compelling feature is something a chatbot routinely answers on your property website. Regardless, it is crucial to identify what attracts and retains residents and execute your advertising accordingly as a follow-up. Why? Your marketing message not only attracts but also sets clear resident expectations based on what your community is offering.

Targeted Marketing Strategies: Renter Occupation and Lifestyle Data

One of the easiest ways to determine the resident occupation, and lifestyle data you should mainly target in your marketing strategy is to look at your community's location. For example, a location in a bustling medical district is a huge selling point to medical professionals. What messaging attracts and retains those in a medical-related occupation? What about your community compliments their lifestyle, desires, wants, and needs? If you need to know what audience to target in your messaging, start by looking at your location, specifically what business, entertainment, and lifestyle opportunities exist around you.

The rental screening process doesn't have to be painful. Use reliable online software applications to run a background check, call references, conduct a resident interview, and apply your insights to a refined advertising and marketing strategy. Rinse and repeat; it's as simple as that! Remember to abide by all Fair Housing laws; you'll be screening and moving in qualified residents in no time.