Rental Criteria checklist

Rental Criteria- How to find Good Tenants the tailored way

Good tenants can make up your business and bad tenants can throw you out of your business. But how do you distinguish between the two? Certainly, you do have a provision of a tenant screening for the process. But even before screening the prospective tenants and sending the rental application. You must filter out the prospects who are not worth your efforts. Setting up a rental criteria exactly does that. 


A Rental Criteria sets a minimum standard for a tenant to even qualify for renting an apartment from the landlord. It then helps a landlord to find good tenants and have a chance to pre-screen them even before sending the rental application


With this article, I want you to understand that your screening strategies should be tailor-made. Your rental criteria necessarily need not be the same as that of some other landlord.  It can be different and hence you should not resort to only the standard selection criteria. Though, the standard selection criteria definitely remain the same. But you should also be able to look a little beyond to find good tenants that will be the absolute fit for your property. So how can you do it?

How to set up a Rental Criteria?

Rental Criteria should clearly justify the intent of a landlord on what exactly you are looking for in a tenant. In order to have tailor-made rental criteria, you should have clear objectives or goals in your mind. Let us take into account what we as landlords, in general, want to achieve with our rental criteria? Definitely, good tenants is what you are aiming for. But what actually makes the tenant good or at least good for your business? 

Evaluating Good Tenants

Good tenants carry certain traits that distinguish them from other tenants. Your rental criteria should be able to evaluate a tenant based on these traits. Generally, a landlord looking for in a tenant who  

Evaluate your situation

Rental Criteria should be individual criteria. You should therefore also evaluate your rental business before creating one. Understand what type of prospects you get at your property and what type of services you have to offer to them? 

  • Type of your Rental Property
  • Type of Prospects you get

Combining the Two to determine the Rental Criteria

Rental Criteria for Apartments

Type of Rental Property

Suppose your rental property can be a single-family home with just one bedroom or it can be a multi-family home. Your house can be located on the swankiest street of the US or at some of an average location. Your rental criteria should be according to the type of property you have. 

Rental Criteria according to house size

You can limit the number of occupants in your rental criteria according to the size of your house. The more tenants you have in a small space, the more wear and tear you will see at your property. Better to limit the number of occupants in your rental criteria according to the type of your property you own. The general rule goes by a maximum of two adults per one bedroom

However, according to the housing laws, you also can`t set a very low limit unless justified. According to housing codes, the number of occupants that can stay on a property depends on the size of the room, bathrooms and the parking space you have. Your rental criteria should look like

  • Maximum no. of Occupants: (X)
  • Require no more than (X) Parking Spot

Rental Criteria according to House Location

If you own a high-end luxury rental, you should understand the type of applicants you want to target with your rental criteria. An applicant with a credit score of 750 will be a better fit than someone with a score of 650 or less. You want someone who can pay rent on time and without arrears. You can use these to up your rental criteria

  • Have more than 6 months of verified rental history
  • Credit score no less than 750
  • Any late rent payment history in the past 6 months shall not apply
  • Must have one-year consecutive employment history (if not self-employed or own a business)
  • Self Employed or Business Person should have a one-year income statement

Type of Prospects You get

Your rental criteria should justify the fair housing laws and you can’t discriminate against tenants. However, it is in sole discretion to whom you want to rent your property, provided it is under law. You may have prospects from certain groups like college students, self-employed professionals, military service persons, foreign nationals. You must prepare your rental criteria accordingly and understand the pros and cons of renting to certain people. 

Rental Requirements Tenant

Rental Criteria for College Students

Suppose your property lies in an area where there are lots of schools and universities in the vicinity. Most likely, you will have prospects that are studying and renting a property for the first time. Such tenants don’t have a rental history, no verifiable rental income. They likely don’t know how to maintain the property and chances are they damage your property. Also, such renters can be picky and require a lot from their landlords. 

>>Read: How to handle noisy tenants?

Also, students are generally short term renters and can cause high turnovers. You can either choose to rent to them or can simply deny them based on no rental history or any reason under HUD guidelines. The college students, however, can be an asset due to their network if you have multiple rental properties in that area. So if you choose to rent to college students, you must tweak your rental criteria. Your rental criteria must have these terms.

  • Additional Co-Signer or Guarantor required if don’t have a verifiable income source 
  • Co-Signer must have an income 5x the rent. 
  • Additional one-month security if not able to verify rental history
  • Must have a renter’s insurance

Rental Criteria for Self Employed Persons

You may often get calls from self-employed professionals to rent your property. No doubt they make up a good tenant. But it is kind of difficult to verify their income sometimes. Usually, under basic rental criteria, a prospect can verify his income through pay stubs or W2 forms. But for self-employed professionals, there will be no such documentation available.

You, however, can verify through their tax returns, bank statements and IRS Form 4506. For such tenants, you must include some additional terms in your rental criteria. It is very important you rent only after verifying the proof of income. So, if a tenant is not able to verify the employment details or is a self-employed person

  • A Maximum 35% of Debt to Income ratio
  • Must carry IRS Form 4506 T
  • Credit Score should be no less than 620
  • If a credit score below 620, requires a guarantor.
  • Two months of the security deposit (Don`t forget to Check State Laws)

Rental Criteria for Military Tenants

A rental property near a military base attracts a lot of military families who are interested in renting your place. Having military tenants, you can insulate your business somewhat from the ups and downs in the rental market due to a weak economy. However, you can have some concern with military tenants. There always remains a possibility of them ending the lease midterm. This can happen due to the nature of their service. 

During such times they are not even entitled to pay the rent for the remaining term as per the SCRA program privilege. You lose a renter in between and your property can sit vacant until a new renter comes in. Furthermore, verifying military persons is also a bit different than verifying civilians. So, if you have military prospects coming in, you should mention these in your rental criteria

  • Must produce a Leave and Earning Statement (Income Verification)
  • Produce a copy of Military Member`s Official Order 

Rental Criteria for Foreign Nationals

Nearly 14% of the population in the US belongs to foreign nationals and 75% of those are looking to rent a house. Most of these foreign nationals have come to the US for jobs or pursue higher education. These nationals make a great tenant as most have stable jobs and make a good income.   

The only concern for a landlord to rent to foreigners is a hard time verifying their credit history. They do not have an SSN number to verify their credit scores and lack in rental history. So, it becomes a concern for a landlord to consider these prospective tenants. But there is no good in not renting to them considering they make up 14% of the US Population. The only thing you need to stay sure of is they fulfill your rental criteria. 

  • Provide a copy of the Visa
  • An applicant with only H1, L1, E2, F1, J1 Visa can apply (These visa types are for longer duration and are mostly for work and study related)
  • The applicant with a tourist visa will be denied (B-1 or B-2)
  • Reference from Current Employer if on work Visa
  • Reference from College or University if on a student visa 
  • Provide ITIN (Individual Taxpayer Identification No.) if on a work visa and liable to pay taxes
  • An applicant who doesn’t have verifiable income must have a guarantor

Rental Application Laws 

It is also very important for you to understand the rental application laws while making up your rental criteria. The rental criteria should comply with the fair housing rules. Failing to do so, you can be sued by a tenant for discrimination and disqualifying on purpose. Under the fair housing rules, you should know

Rental Application Laws

Questions not to ask while screening the Tenant

  • Specific about relationship status 
  • Sexual Orientation
  • Family Status
  • Nationality
  • Asking about being ever arrested
  • Religion
  • Race
  • Sex
  • Asking about any physical or mental disability

When you can’t deny Rental Application?

A landlord cannot deny a rental application based on discrimination against a protected class. You can’t simply refuse to rent to someone because he is not married, or has come from a different country. Or maybe the tenant has different religious views than yours or he is a gay or a transgender for that matter. Also denying the application by simply stating that the rental got occupied even though it is not, is also not legal.   

How to Deny a Rental Application?

Denying a tenant out of discrimination, you can face consequences under the law. A tenant can simply lodge a complaint against you. The tenant can either make complaints to HUD or State agencies or can even file a lawsuit directly in the federal or state court.  

You should then deny any applicant only if he does not qualify your rental criteria provided the criteria also comply with the Fair Housing laws. Remember when you disqualify the tenant give him proper information on disqualification if required.

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