Prescreen a Tenant

When you are a landlord, you will hear lots of sob stories.  You will eventually need to prescreen a tenant, unless you show your rental to everyone who inquires, which I used to do.  Most of the people are genuine, they need a place to stay and are great people and may be a great tenant (or not…). The problem is, their story looks the same on paper as a landlord nightmare applicant.

Here is what you need to do to easily prescreen a tenant, save time, and keep your profits up as a landlord.

Here is the right way to prescreen a tenant that has only inquired, without taking a lot of your time.

I have corrected some of the grammar and added punctuation, added paragraphs and headings, and capitalization for clarity. It was sent from a phone, so often the limited typing real estate on the phone keyboard is a problem.

I do not want to waste my time showing apartments to people that would not pass my screening criteria. I need to prescreen a tenant, BEFORE I show the apartment or let them into another tenants home.  Showing an apartment to unqualified prospects is a waste of my time, and the prospects time.  I also do not want to change my criteria for any new tenants, as it could be perceived as a Fair Housing issue.

The Sob Story

Hello, my name is JC, I am very interested in your property that is currently available to rent. I am a single mother with a 4-year-old son.

I recently lived over south Minneapolis in a two bedroom for 1,000 a month including utilities. I would have resigned my lease but I was forced to move due to health violations, I am now couch hoping from family to friends’ houses.
I hope you can call me so we can discuss further details about your rental property.

The Excuses

In the last 3 years I have been evicted twice I was evicted out of my home due to someone breaking and leaving me with the rent to pay by myself, He was an ex of mines who I had to put an order of protection against which led to a restraining order. He was the father of my child I lived with him in both homes where I was evicted which ended in a UD because i no longer had his share to complete the rent.

I have taken care of the problem and paid full my debt off and I have no issues with renting out other properties even though I have the eviction on my record I am an honest and humbled person just trying to have a safe and secure place for my child to lay his head.

I can pay first, last and security deposit or even double the deposit to your liking I work two jobs one full time the other part time.

The Plead

I’m a single mom who is looking for someone who has compassion in their heart to give me a chance to be an awesome tenant, I’m honest self-driven a hard worker I independent I have grown financially mentally and physically after letting go of my abusive partner. I have a son who needs a stable roof over his head.

I can be reached at 612-555-1212 or via email Thank you.

My Response

Thank you for inquiring on my property.

This unit will be available October 1st, 2017.

This is a three-bedroom, one bath unit.  It is a non-smoking building.  Each additional adult tenant, over two, will be an extra $50.  There are two flights of stairs to get into the unit.  After that, it is all one level.

The rent price includes water, sewer, garbage, lawn maintenance and snow removal.  It was built in 1984, so it is fairly energy efficient, and does not have lead paint.  It does not include gas or electric, which runs ~$125 per month.  The deposit is $1,400.

There is a tandem garage, one car parks in front of the other.  The garage is not heated, but with all the heated common walls, it generally stays above freezing.  There is a washer and dryer inside the unit.  The unit has a window air conditioner that works extremely well.

Pets are allowed, however no Akita, Chow, Pit-bull, Rottweiler, or any cross breed with wolf are allowed.  A $25 fee per pet is a general rule of thumb.

Eagan’s Dog Park, about a mile away

I generally show the unit on weekends between 11 AM and 4 PM and sometimes during the week between 6 PM and 7 PM.  You will need to schedule an appointment first, and then confirm the appointment ~30 minutes before you arrive.

My Criteria to Prescreen a Tenant

I will be looking for tenants with a 625+ credit score, and a solid household income of at least ~$48,000 per year.  If you are marginal on both items, I will generally decline you.  Your criminal and rental history must be clean.  If you have had a foreclosure, I can work with you a bit on this.

I do not take Section 8.  If you have had an eviction, or you have had recent criminal activity including DUIs, I generally will pass on you.  If you are not a legal resident of the USA, I will not be able to rent to you as I cannot perform a valid background check.

I have a Real Estate license, so if you are preparing to buy a home, this is a perfect fit.  If you purchase a home through me, I can make sure the lease transition is easy, and also give you up to $500 back at closing to help with your moving expenses or anything you want.  Sort of like a rent to own, but you buy the place you want, not this place.

If you are still interested and want to look at the apartment, please let me know.

Virtual Tour link

Link Here

Eric 651-555-1212

my email here


I never heard back from the prospect and I am glad I have a pre-formatted letter to be able to prescreen a tenant properly.  I wish her the best of luck in a difficult situation, but  I am not willing to take a chance on a person that may attract another abusive partner.  The abuser likely has a criminal record, and I do not want that abuser in my place.  She was evicted two times, neither was her fault…  I do not want to be the third landlord to be fooled.

I leave that to the new landlords…

16 Replies to “Prescreen a Tenant”

  1. I like it. Once I read that the apt has 3 BR I realized how pie in the sky these applicants were. They need t build themselves back up by renting 1 room they sleep in with their kid(s). It ain’t that hard. Then save $ and apply to live in the apt WITH a solid income roommate to help pay the rent. 3 BR = 3 pp right?

    1. Thank you for reading!

      You are correct, a 1BR might be all she needs. In her defense, she may have been inquiring on ever apartment under a certain price, as she knows it is almost impossible to get a place with two recent evictions. That is another reason why landlords gets frustrated, it seems that all applicants are under qualified.

      Here is a post that describes that.

  2. That’s a good read.

    I have a question, what would you do if a person doesn’t have credit score? Like mine is undermined. I closed all my credit cards a year ago and don’t use credit products. How would you decided you are going to rent me or not?


    1. Thank you for reading!

      I would decline you, as you are high risk. A person without a credit score, that has no criminal record, and no bad credit marks, must have a co-tenant with a 650+ credit score. If you have even so much as a parking ticket, you are declined. Young people and immigrants fall into a no score category through no fault of their own. They generally do not have a criminal record or even a parking ticket.

      Most people use credit in one form or another. I would suspect that since it’s only been a year, you have a credit score. And it may be low. Once a person goes to a ‘no score’, after having bad credit, I don’t want you either.

  3. Excellent idea muh dude. Just copy and paste…and then go on with your day.

    Also you have proof that you have not violated any anti-discrimination laws etc. etc. in case you are ever falsly accused by a mooching sue happy bum.

  4. Hi nice site! I couldn’t find anything like this but is there a section with your personal investments/costs associated with each and progress being made? I saw your debt payoff but was hoping to find a section that showed when you bought the rentals how it is going etc etc. Interesting stuff though thanks for sharing!

    1. Thank you for reading!!

      I only have two mortgages now, and they have not had any extra payments. I went from almost $1M in Feb 2012 to less than $400K in 10/2017. 5.5 years to pay off almost $600K. Nearly $100K an year extra.

  5. I only show places after pre-screening. I get proof of income, and talk to a work reference and past landlord.

      1. I’m surprised you can get a deposit before even showing a place. I only take the deposit when the lease is signed. Where I live the law allows a maximum of 1/2 of one month rent for deposit.

        I also don’t do credit checks. There’s lots of people with <600 scores that are financially reliable. For example people that had a billing dispute with a mobile phone provider, and then switched to a new carrier. The old carrier often sends it collections and flags the account O9, even when the amount is disputed. That can knock 50+ points off your score.
        Someone with a couple credit cards they rarely use will have a lower score than someone who regularly uses 10% of their limit. Someone who recently applied for a new credit card and car loan could see their score drop 20-30 points.

        Someone with a long-term unionized government job is still a great tenant even with a terrible credit score. They’re not going to quit and move, they’re unlikely to get fired, so if they default on their rent they are an easy person to garnish.

        I tell my tenants up front how I’ll garnish their wages if they default on their rent, and so far I’ve never had to do it.

        1. Thank you for reading!

          To clarify, I do not get a deposit before showing, but I do get a deposit or holding fee when I get an application.

          Many great tenants have low credit scores, but I prefer to take the low risk route. I probably could get a higher monthly rent for lower scoring people though. You cannot garnish any money for a job-hopper, but a unionized job is pretty steady.

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