Student renters are somewhat of a unique breed of tenants. Quite commonly, they have unique needs and don’t have any rental or credit history, which can make the screening process more difficult. To help landlords with this process, we’ve compiled a few tips for screening prospective student tenants.
Considering most rental inquiries will come via telephone or email, a landlord can have a set of questions prepared for potential tenants to save time. In addition to the standard questions a landlord will ask such as name, contact information and preferred move-in date, the landlord should also get more detailed. The tenant’s responses could potentially disqualify himself or herself immediately. For example, if a landlord operates a non-smoking or no pet rental, it would be beneficial to ask right away if the tenant has a pet or smokes.
Landlords should also ask more student specific questions. These questions could include:
These questions are of equal importance in the prescreening process. For example, if the student renter is only looking for a one-term lease (5-6 months), but the landlord wants a one-year commitment, this wouldn’t be the best tenant. Also, if the student’s term begins in January, but the landlord needs to fill the rental for September, this also won’t work.
Most landlords ask for a credit check and previous landlord references. While these are common requirements for the average tenant, many student renters will have a very difficult time producing this information. They often have a limited credit history and most will have lived with their parents or only stayed in on-campus housing accommodations. If a student renter is unable to produce landlord references or a credit check, landlords can alternatively ask for a guarantor, co-signer or character references from an employer, professor, etc.
It’s also important to ask if the student renter has any questions. A prospective tenant may have concerns about certain features or amenities of the rental accommodation, which could potentially rule that person out. For example, a tenant might ask, “Does the property have enough parking spaces for three cars?” If there is only one parking spot available, the student may not be interested in the property any longer.
All of the aforementioned questions can be dealt with via telephone or email, but it’s important to conduct a face-to-face interview next, before accepting a tenant. This will give a landlord the opportunity to get a first impression on the potential tenant and find the most suitable candidate.
There are certain questions that a landlord legally cannot ask potential tenants, in a rental application or in person. Any question that could be interpreted as discriminatory under the Fair Housing Act cannot be asked, including familial status, disability, national origin, sex, religion, race and color.
Student renters can make great tenants! We hope these tips will help landlords with the screening process and to determine if students are compatible for their rental property.