Screening tenants, for all occupants do the following::
1. Verify present employment, length of time on present job (at least 1 yr.), wages (should be 3x the rent to be able to afford the place).
2. Verify past employer for same info.
3. Verify current rental - check for REAL LL's name through auditor's site or phone listing for complex, verify time there, current rent amount, timely payments, no lease/rule violations, no problems with disturbances, law, or health dept, check to see if all occupants listed on the application live at that rental address.
4. Verify past LLs - same info, and dates in and out, if full SD was refunded, damages to unit, if unit was left clean, if tenants gave appropriate notice prior to leaving.
5. Check criminal background through local county sheriff & police depts (criminal cases), and the county/city municipal court records (evictions, lawsuits) and through all counties the applicants have lived in according to other addresses on the credit checks. Don't depend on internet sites that claim to check backgrounds, they miss lots!
6. Check sexual predators site to verify that the applicant or another occupant isn't on the list (especially if the unit is near a school, daycare, playground, etc.).
7. Check personal references, see what they will tell you about the applicant, but don't put too much stock in their opinions, friends will say anything.
8. Finally, pull the credit report - look for the score yes, but look further at that report for more important information. Look to see if their debt to income ratio is acceptable. Look to see if current obligations are being paid on time, look to see what has been sent to collections (If medical bills, you may want to overlook these - many people have no insurance and get sick/injured and cannot pay). If bankruptcies, have obligations been paid on time since they were filed? Or did they go back to the same overspending/late payment patterns? Look especially for other addresses they didn't list on the application and call those places. Look for judgments or claims from other LLs, apt. complexes, or utilities.
9. Verify that everything they put on the application matches up to what you have found out from other sources. If you find obvious lies or misrepresentations, pass on them!
I hope this helps you to screen those applicants better. And if you have a bad feeling about an applicant, or no applicant looks very good, run another ad, put a sign out front, print up fliers & post them all over, but just keep looking. It's better to have to wait another week or two for a better tenant than to take one that you will soon have to evict in a month or two.
Oh, and one last thing, if you have to take a less than desirable tenant, take a larger SD and put them on a month to month. It is much easier to get a bad tenant out when they are only renting monthly. You may still have to evict them to get them out, but if they are on a lease, you must be able to prove in court that they materially breached the lease to win a judgment of eviction.