How to Vet Potential Renters

When you’re letting someone into your home or a property that you own, you want to be absolutely sure that they’re a person you can trust.

If you have a spare room in your home or tend to travel for long periods of time, taking in a renter or subletter can be a good way to earn some extra money. While you’ll obviously have to prepare the space for your guests and keep everything in order, it’s a relatively passive income.

But it’s not all sunshine and flowers on Renter’s Mountain. You’ve probably heard stories of nightmare house guests. Maybe you’ve even had some of your own. The kind who think they’re entitled to do whatever they want and leave the apartment a total mess. Where so many things are broken and trashed after they leave that you’re worried to even enter the bathroom for fear of what you’ll find.

And those are the relatively low-level concerns. If you really want to let your imagination run wild through the worst case scenarios, you’ll be stuck on the possibilities of theft or illegal activities being run out of your home.

So how can you make sure the guests you’re letting in aren’t like villains out of a cautionary Lifetime drama? Read on and find out!

Ask the right questions.

Before you start seeking them out potential renters, It’s important to know what questions you’ll be asking them. Obviously, these questions will depend on what’s important to you, but here are some suggestions to consider, via Steve Schwab, CEO of Casago (@Casagovacations):

“In some ways, interviewing a prospective tenant for a vacation rental is a bit like interviewing an employee for the job. Either way, you’ll want to ensure a good fit! Here are some key questions to ask:

  • Do you have pets?
  • Will you undergo an eviction, credit, and criminal background check?
  • Can you verify employment income or show the ability to cover the rent?
  • For subletting: What are your reasons for moving or renting long-term?
  • When do you want to rent the property, and for how long?
  • Do you have references from a landlord or an employer?”

And that job interview analogy doesn’t just apply to the way you conduct your “interviews.” You should be certain to treat the entire process like it’s a business relationship. Why? Because it is.

Have the right process.

Whether you’re planning to make most of your income through renting out your space or just see it as a way to get some extra cash here and there, you’ll want to establish a standard process for all potential renters.

“Create a formal application process,” suggested Schwab. “Create a written template for a rental application (remember that it’s always a good idea to have correspondence and documentation about tenant-owner relationships on paper) to keep tabs on each prospective tenant.

“The application serves as a way to organize tenant files, which is critical if you have a number of tenants applying at once, or if your property is popular and you want to make sure that only the most qualified applicants are permitted to stay.

“Furthermore, it is an easy way to keep a written reference handy of why you ultimately chose to either accept or deny a prospective renter.”

If this is more than you want to handle on your own though, you can “air” on the side of caution.

Airbnb careful.

Why create a whole application process complete with background checks and income checks and contracts when someone has already done it for you? Obviously, there are some advantages to creating your own systems depending on your specific situation, but if you only have a single room, apartment, or house to rent out, you can probably use Airbnb.

“The best way to screen your host before renting out to him/her is to only use such short-term rental platforms which allow for hosts to leave reviews for guests,” recommended Daniela Andreevska, marketing director at Mashvisor (@Mashvisor).

“The first thing you should do when someone requests to stay at your property is to make sure they have a completed profile on Airbnb, which should be verified. After all, your guest should have no reason to hide any information from you. If your potential guest has taken the time and put the effort to fill in their profile, that’s a positive sign that they generally take things seriously and responsibly.

“The next step is to see what reviews previous hosts have left for this guest. Look out for red flags which might be pointing out this guest will be too much trouble.”

When it comes to those reviews though, you’ll want to look out for what might be hidden between the lines.

“Reading reviews from other hosts can also be incredibly helpful to determine if you will accept a guest,” began Veronica Hanson, owner of Vacay Visionary (@vacayvisionary). “Although most hosts don’t overtly say a guest is terrible, there are often clues if you read between the lines. A host might say the guest ‘had a weird schedule,’ indicating they are likely coming home late.”

But if you want to be extra careful, there are some extra steps to take.

Ready, vet, go!

You don’t have to hire a detective agency to check out all of your potential renters. But you can still do a little internet sleuthing of your own.

“Most guests put their best foot forward in their Airbnb profile but show their real personality on Facebook,” warned Evan Roberts, real estate agent and renovation expert with Dependable Homebuyers in Baltimore, MD. “Whenever we have a guest we always send them a friend request on Facebook with a message of, ‘We see our visitors as more than just guests and would love to connect with you.’ We find that the best guests who have nothing to hide accept these requests quickly and are excited that their host is taking extra steps to make them feel comfortable during their stay.”

And Roberts wasn’t the only one who recommended establishing a connection with your potential guests beforehand.

“Airbnb has got much better with their identification requirements, but it is not fail-safe,” explained Caio Merino, co-founder of Merino Hospitality (@StayMerino). “A big tell-tale sign of potential trouble is generic messages that don’t give information about the guests/party, their plans or don’t show any excitement or emotion.

If you consider the leisure market, people are usually excited about their trip and want to know more about the place, recommendations, share the reason for their visit, their expectations of London, etc. We are keen on establishing a rapport with guests to make them feel comfortable and welcome from the get-go, and on Airbnb, it is much more so as the platform is built with the community aspect at heart.

“By volunteering free information from the very beginning enquiry stage, following with a personal question such as if they have been to London before and what brings them to town, potential guests become comfortable with sharing some more information that helps us in making a better assessment of the veracity of the information provided and their real intentions in staying at our properties.”

Andreevska also recommended asking for references: “Check if the guest has any references. Positive references are an additional sign that this host should be trustworthy and will leave your property in the same condition in which he/she found it.”

Keep on keeping an eye out.

Beyond your online due diligence, you can use some offline due diligence as well.

“A guest arriving without any luggage or refusing help to get their stuff from ‘their mate’s’ car or just wanting to check out the place whilst their friends wait in the car are not good signs,” said Merino. “Ask for ID and the credit card used to pay and check that they match. Cross-check the information you were given, try and call their mobile whilst they are present, do anything you can to reassure yourself that you are comfortable with your guests as much as they are with you.

“After all, it is your place, especially if you are renting out a room in your house or your home whilst you are out of town (and please never volunteer that information). Have someone check-in with your guests regularly to make sure they are looked after and that your place is being used for the lovely and enjoyable purpose that it is set out to be.

“One last piece of advice,” he added. “Trust your gut instinct. If it smells fishy, it probably is.”

Earning money is essential, but you also want your home to feel like your home. Hopefully, these tips will allow for both! If you want to learn more about earning extra income, check out these related posts and articles from OppLoans:

What are your strategies for vetting potential renters? We want to hear from you! You can find us on Facebook and Twitter.

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Daniela Andreevska is the Marketing Director at Mashvisor (@Mashvisor), a real estate data analytics company which helps investors in the US housing market make better and faster investment decisions.
Veronica Hanson never imagined herself as a vacation home landlord. When a solar eclipse filled every local hotel room, she decided to clean her house and list it for rent on Airbnb. One year, 53 nights booked, and $41,331 later she has turned her systems into a business teaching other homeowners how to cash in on their largest asset without selling. Every homeowner has the ability to convert their home into a part-time vacation rental and turn their house into a paycheck.
Caio Merino is a Les Roches Hotel Management School (Switzerland) graduate with a BA in Marketing and alongside his wife, Louise Carr-Merino (PGD in Hospitality and MBA in Finance from Les Roches), they’ve founded Merino Hospitality (@StayMerino), purveyors of private accommodation and boutique serviced apartment operator in central London. He has 14-years experience in the hotel and hospitality industry and has previously worked at 5**** establishments in Spain, Brazil and Switzerland before moving to London where he was part of the reopening team at the Savoy Hotel and later led the catering and events team at Burberry Horseferry House for a top catering firm. Their passion is to enable travelers to experience London in comfort and at their own pace by providing guests with a place to call home in town, offering homely properties that are fully furnished equipped and designed with their guests’ needs in mind.
Evan Roberts grew up in Towson and now lives in Upper Fells with his girlfriend Michelle and their lovable dog, Mia. He has a proven track record as a homebuyer and loves helping educate homeowners on the current real estate climate. If you’re looking for a trustworthy professional who can answer all your toughest questions, then Evan is your man!
Steve Schwab is the founder and CEO of Casago (@Casagovacations), a property management and vacation rental company headquartered in Scottsdale, Arizona. Steve, a 20-year industry (and Army) veteran and self-described “Property Management Nerd,” founded the company after creating a proprietary software solution to help manage property bookings, maintenance, payments, and more. Casago has 2,300 units that they manage in a dozen communities across the USA and Mexico and has served more than 3.2 million guests to date.

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