Renting out a property is a significant investment, and selecting reliable, responsible, and trustworthy tenants is pivotal to safeguarding your property's value and minimising potential issues. Tenant screening involves a careful evaluation of applicants to determine their suitability as renters. Our comprehensive guide is here to walk landlords through the process of effectively screening potential tenants while fostering a friendly and professional relationship.

Establish Clear Criteria

Setting clear tenant selection criteria before the screening process ensures consistency and streamlines applicant evaluations. These may include assessing:

  • Credit History: A strong credit history and satisfactory credit score provide insights into financial responsibility and debt management.
  • Income Verification: Ensuring the applicant's income comfortably covers the rent, generally around 30% of their gross monthly income.
  • Rental History: Checking for positive rental experiences by contacting previous landlords regarding payment timeliness and property care.
  • Criminal Background Check: Assessing concerns for the safety of other tenants and the property, if any, based on criminal history.

Request Detailed Application Forms

Comprehensive rental application forms collecting essential information are a key part of the process. These forms should include personal information, employment details, rental history, references, and information for co-applicants if applicable.

Verify Identity and Income

To confirm an applicant's identity, you can request for any of the following to be provided:

  • Passport
  • Driving Licence
  • Utility Bill (if the tenant does not have photo ID)

When asking for proof of funds, you can ask to see:

  • Recent payslips or bank statements
  • A letter from the tenant's employer confirming they work for them (and how long for)
  • Accounts or bank statements if the tenant is self-employed
  • Award letters if the tenant is claiming benefits

Contact Previous Landlords

Engaging with previous landlords provides essential insights into an applicant's rental history and behaviour, helping identify any potential red flags. These can act as your references for the tenant(s)'s reliability.

Credit Score and Check History

Reviewing an applicant's credit report offers valuable insights into their financial responsibility and any outstanding debts or past evictions.

Evaluate Rental Payment History

Assessing an applicant's history of timely rent payments by requesting payment records and speaking with previous landlords is crucial for a successful tenancy.

Consider the Need for a Guarantor

In cases where an applicant doesn't meet all criteria, considering a guarantor is an option. Ensure the guarantor meets similar screening criteria and understands their responsibilities.

Be Aware of Fair Housing Laws

Throughout the process, ensure compliance with fair housing laws, treating all applicants consistently and fairly without discrimination.

Make an Informed Decision

Consider an applicant's financial stability, rental history, credit history, and background checks to make an informed decision. Communicate your decision promptly and transparently.

Document Everything

Maintain thorough records of all interactions and decisions throughout the screening process, which can be invaluable in the event of future disputes.

Protect Tenant Privacy

Handle personal information with care, following data protection regulations, and securely storing documents to protect tenant privacy.

Right to Rent

Landlords who rent properties to tenants in England and Wales must check that a tenant has a right to rent, and live, in the UK. You do not need to do this check in Scotland.

Illegal Premiums

In Scotland, landlords and letting agents can only ask tenants to pay for:

  • Rent
  • A refundable deposit (which can't be more than 2 months' rent)

Any other charges to tenants are called 'illegal premiums' and are against the law. They include charges like:

  • Administration fees
  • Credit checks
  • Holding fees (including refundable and non refundable fees)

If a tenant thinks they've been charged an illegal premium, they may be able to claim this back and their landlord may be guilty of an offence.


Screening potential tenants is vital for a successful rental property investment. By establishing clear criteria, collecting comprehensive application forms, verifying identity and income, and considering a guarantor, landlords can make informed decisions that foster a positive landlord-tenant relationship. Comply with fair housing laws, maintain accurate documentation, and protect tenant privacy to safeguard interests and rights.