Performing a Tenant Screening for First-time Renters

Most of the rental applicants you encounter will have some history of past tenancies. However, there will be those occasions when you come upon first-time renters, typically recently graduated college students who are seeking their first apartment. Unfortunately these renters do not have a rental history, but that does not mean that you should automatically disqualify them from consideration. can show you what tenant verification checks you can still make, and we’ll also suggest steps that you and the applicant can take to ensure a good landlord-tenant relationship.

Most students will have at least one credit card, and thus there will be a credit history. This means that you can request a Tenant Credit Report. This report will provide information such as what accounts have been opened, credit limits, payment histories, and the amount of student loans that need to be repaid. An employment verification report will provide you with the applicant’s employment history, indicating positions, companies, salary history, and current employment status. If the applicant has just begun a new job, you will want to ask for references from the current employer. Also to consider is that ideally the rent-to-income ratio should be no higher than 35 percent, so you will need to determine whether the applicant is making a sufficient amount of income to cover the rent in full every month. If not, and you view the applicant favorably, you may request that someone (such as a parent) co-sign the lease.

Perhaps, given the applicant’s age, you will be inclined to think that there cannot be a history of criminal misconduct. But we suggest that you take advantage of our advanced Tenant Screening Reports which can uncover such things as whether the applicant has a criminal background, which will specify the nature of the crimes (including any sex offender violations), when they occurred, and the applicant’s current status; whether he or she has committed Social Security number fraud; or written bad checks.

You may also request college transcripts from the rental applicant. This will allow you to see whether he or she graduated on time and was a good student. Another idea that some landlords favor is to demand a greater security deposit (but note that in some states there is a limit as to what can be charged), or an additional month’s rent paid in advance. Lastly, request at least three references—for example, from current or past employers or teachers—and call each to gain a better picture of the applicant.

In the end, your task is to find the best possible tenants for your rental unit. With the help of, we can provide you with the necessary tenant screening reports to make an informed decision about first-time renters. And bear one last thing in mind: if you have multiple apartment buildings, or various types of rentals, by uncovering an excellent young tenant he or she may be with you for many years.