Question on tenant screening process

A friend, who is my REI mentor, told me that the most important thing in screening prospective tenants is their credit score. He said not to accept any FICO score less than 620.

Here are my questions:

  1. Is the 620 credit score something any of you use as a screening component?
  2. If a couple applies, do you take their average?
  3. What would be your #2 screening component (length of employment, salary, past references from landlord)?

Thanks in advance for your opinions.


The type of screening you should do depends on the class of rentals you have. If you own apartments in NYC that rent for $10,000 per month, then I definitely would base my screening partly on their credit report. If you own low income apartment buildings in the inner city and required a 620 credit score, you wouldn’t have even a single tenant!

On my nice SFH rentals, I do use the credit report as part of the screening process. I am more interested in their payment history than their score. Also, credit SCORES don’t show the true story. I am currently buying an apartment building. The other day, I was meeting with the president of my local bank about the loan for this building. I asked him if he had pulled my credit report and what my score was. IT WAS 636! Now, what’s really funny about this is that my wife is a brand new realtor who only made about $15,000 last year and her score was 720!!! I am a subscriber to Free Credit and my score on there is 725. By your friend’s formula, I could barely rent his house. I have millions of dollars in real estate and have NEVER been late on any payment in my life. Would you really want to eliminate someone like me because of an irrelevant number on a piece of paper? The bank president laughed and said that he didn’t pay attention to the score and that the report showed I had a perfect payment history. So, to make a long story short, that credit number doesn’t mean much!!!

What I am primarily concerned about is their source of income, their employment history, their criminal history, their civil court history, their rental history, and their references.



for a single family home rental -

correct me if i’m wrong -

but aside from references and the histories you identified, wouldn’t you also eliminate anyone who couldn’t come up with

1st month, last month rent + security deposit (1 month rent) prior to moving in?

we’re going to be renting a portion of a property we own and my partner and i have been arguing about this. i say, if they (tenant) can’t come up with the money ($2700) up front to move in - we’re not renting to them - BOTTOM LINE.

the property is where we live (long island), and most people can come up with that in a blink of an eye - my partner (stupid brother) says we should only get 1st/2nd rents + $500 deposit.

i say no good.


If you can easily get that much for a deposit from tons of qualified folks why settle for less? Mike couldn’t think about getting that much cash up front if he wanted to due to his tenants income levels but you better believe if he could he would. Every time one of those tenants skip you’re just a little farther ahead with that extra deposit and have just a little more in your pocket to cut your annual expenses down.


I agree 100% with Rich. Get all you can! Here in Ohio, it is nearly impossible to get 1st, last, and a security deposit. In fact, I turn down tenants all the time because I won’t “work with” tenants on the security deposit. Other landlords do and they often don’t stay in business long. I’d MUCH rather have a vacant unit than one filled with a scumbag!


Thanks for all of your thoughts!! I appreciate it!

I really agree with the person who said that if the tennant cannot find the up front money, you should not rent. Last year I made the mistake of being sorry for a tennant and had to ask her to leave within a few months.

I generally asked for first, last and deposit. When she came she gave me some story and I took her owing a few hundred on the deposit. The agreement was that she should pay me thne rest by first of month along with the new rent. End of month she said she wanted to talk…Guess what? She didnt even have the next month rent much less the balance. The following few months she kept owing and could not catch up. I asked her to find someplace else to live, she did.

I vowed never again and I have been hard as nails on that issue since. If they cannot pay the move in fees, do not rent or you will be asking for trouble in the following months.
I am sure that there are more stories that has worked out the other way but I say secure yourself. Just my 2 cents