Screen tenants for a positive rental experience

Wednesday October 30 2019

Before you let a tenant in, find out if they

Before you let a tenant in, find out if they can afford to pay rent for the subsequent months. Photo by Ismail Kezaala 

By Carolyne B. Atangaza

Have you ever wondered why one landlord is able to have tenants that live in his properties for many years while another one just cannot keep them for more than three months?

One of the biggest factors for a harmonious landlord-tenant relationship is finding a perfect match, and finding a perfect match takes a thorough screening process. Landlords are aware that quality tenants are the key to long-term profitability.

Quality tenants are those who are able to pay rent on time, keep the property in top notch condition, use the property for the intended purpose and live peacefully with their neighbours. Many landlords find themselves stuck with tenants they let into their properties without enough screening.

Godfrey Bbale, a landlord, says his exacting standards and thorough screening of tenants has helped him get and retain quality for as long as 10 years or more.

Tenancy history
“Every landlord screens tenants differently. The intensity usually depends on the value they place on their property. Before the tenant moves into my properties, I make sure I meet their current landlord and find out what kind of person in order to rule out any malicious information they might want to give about the tenant.

So, when I get to talk to the tenant, I ask them why they are moving, how often they were late paying and how many times they were involved in misunderstandings with their neighbours. Answers to these questions will help me form a character outline of the individual,” he reveals.


Another test Bbale uses to screen his tenants whether they endevour to meet him on the time agreed upon. “From my experience, 80 per cent never make it on time. Half of them have the courtesy of calling to say they are running late and the other half never do. If they are more than 10 minutes late from when they said they would be arriving, I leave.

I know most of us have come to terms with what we call “Ugandan time” but to me, it is an indicator that they never take anything seriously, if they cannot show up on time, chances are they will not be able to pay their rent on time either,” he remarks.

Source of income
Nicholas Ssebagala, another landlord, urges landlords to take time to find out the person they are letting on their properties before they do.

“One important verification is their source of income. I need to know that they have a stable source of income whether from their job or business.

When I doubt the tenant’s word, I often request for their bank statements as well,” he reveals.
Another method of screening Ssebagala uses is giving the tenant an application form and asking them to fill it out before signing the tenant agreement.

“Some people object to the application forms claiming the questions are unnecessary, I have found out that those who complain most usually have something to hide and this is a disqualification for me. If you allow them to ignore it, then you lose important information for tenant decisions,” remarks Ssebagala.

However, it is also important to assure the tenant that the information they share with you will be well kept and protected.

If you do not have the time and energy to deal with the screening process, it is advisable to engage a professional, experienced property manager to do it for you.

This will save you from the irritation of dealing with unserious tenants and will prevent landlords from making common mistakes such as using discriminatory language and failing to protect the information given.

Use the internet and social media

Screening prospective tenants is probably the single most important thing a Landlord or property manager can do. In today’s technological world, information is abundant and ready for users to get at.

An individual can learn an enormous amount of things about someone simply by doing a simple “Google” search. Business owners use the Internet to search employee’s activities. Buyers and sellers research their real estate agents.

You can learn a lot from a tenant’s social
You can learn a lot from a tenant’s social media posts, verify some of the information they give you by checking their Facebook pages. Photo by Rachel Mabala

Even tenants conduct online research of their landlord or property manager. Using the Internet and social media venues can provide valuable information that’s not only relevant, but essential to the applicant screening process.

For example, an applicant may indicate they have resided in a particular town or location for the past several years, but their Facebook page or Google+ page suggests otherwise. It could indicate that potentially they have misled or was untruthful when answering questions your application. It could also indicate they could be hiding an adverse rental history and may be supplying you with fictitious prior landlord references.

There are, however, major potential problems with using the Internet or social media venues as screening tools - you will come upon information that is not only untrue, but if true, should have no bearing on your decision as to whether to rent to this person. (Source: