How to Screen Your Tenant and Check References

Learn how to screen tenants and check references with this guide. Get tips on what questions to ask and how to go about it.

A Guide to Tenant Screening Questions and Checking References

Finding good tenants for your property is one of the most important parts of managing your own property. As a rental provider, you want to make sure that whoever you choose as your tenant will be reliable and keep your property in good condition. But how can you ensure a potential tenant will be the right fit? 

That’s where conducting tenant screenings and checking references comes in. Asking prospective tenants screening questions and contacting their previous landlords or employers for references can help you identify any red flags before you commit to them as your tenant. Doing this can help you make an informed decision about who to rent out your property to.

Why are Screening Questions Important?

Screening questions are essential for several reasons. First and foremost, they can help you identify suitable candidates; those who are reliable, will pay rent on time, and look after your property. But screening questions can also help you filter out unsuitable applicants, those with bad rental histories or insufficient incomes to cover the rent. 

Asking about rental history, income, and personal references can give you the information you need to decide on who to rent your property to. This is especially important when considering applicants in urban areas or cities with high demand for rental properties.

Finally, screening questions also help you to protect yourself and your investment. Asking specific questions can ensure that each tenant knows their responsibilities and obligations as a renter. 

To ensure that you’re getting the most out of your screenings, it’s essential to ensure your questions are specific and relevant. Taking the time to screen your tenants properly can save you many headaches down the line! 

How Can You Create A Standard Screening Questionnaire?

Creating a standard screening questionnaire is relatively straightforward. The key is to make sure that you’re asking the right questions in the right order and providing enough detail for each response.

Here are some tips to help you get started: 

Begin with the basics

Start off by asking for basic personal information such as full name, current address, phone number, and email address. This will help you verify the applicant’s identity and ensure they can be contacted if necessary. 

Assess employment and income

Next, ask questions about the applicant’s current job and income. This will give you an idea of their financial stability and ability to pay rent. 

Evaluate rental history

It’s also a good idea to inquire about the prospective tenant’s rental history. Ask about their current job, employer, and length of employment. Additionally, request details about their monthly income or salary. This information will give you an in-depth look at their financial stability.

Request personal references

Understanding an applicant's character is important in the tenant screening process. Obtaining personal references from individuals who have had some form of professional or personal relationship with the applicant can provide valuable insight.

These references are often used to learn more about the applicant's ability to pay rent on time, keep their space tidy, and any other habits that may affect the tenant-landlord relationship. 

Address specific requirements

If your rental property has specific restrictions or guidelines, it is crucial to include questions that address those requirements. For example, if pets are prohibited or only specific types are permitted, enquire about the applicant's pet ownership status.

Similarly, if smoking is prohibited, include a question regarding smoking habits. This will help you filter out applicants who do not meet your property's criteria.

Conclude with additional details

Wrap up by asking any remaining questions that have not been covered. For instance, enquire about whether the applicant intends to have roommates or if they possess any relevant identification documents that need to be provided during the application process. By collecting this final information, you can ensure that all necessary details are gathered before making your decision.

By using a consistent set of questions for each applicant, you’ll have an easier time comparing and evaluating prospective tenants. You’ll also be able to track and document any changes or updates in a timely manner. At the end of the day, tenant screening is all about mitigating risk. By taking the time to create an effective questionnaire and ask the right questions, you can ensure that you're selecting tenants who are responsible.

RentBetter uses the National Tenancy Database, the market-leading solution by Equifax, to check the background of your prospective tenant. This is the most extensive database of tenant information in Australia.

Find out more about how to check your tenant through the NTD here.

The Benefits of Using a Standard Questionnaire

Using a standard questionnaire is beneficial as it ensures that all applicants are screened similarly, which can lead to more accurate results.

Minimise errors and omissions

With a standardised questionnaire, you can reduce the chances of screening errors and omissions. Having a set list of questions means you won't miss any important info or accidentally let biases creep into your decision-making. It's like having a trusty guide to keep you on track.

Saves time

Who doesn't want to save time? Using a standardised questionnaire can save you from the time-consuming task of creating unique questions for every applicant. With a tried-and-true questionnaire, you can breeze through the evaluation process.

Levels the playing field

A standard screening questionnaire allows you to establish a levelled playing field for all prospective tenants. Everybody gets asked the same questions, so you can objectively compare their qualifications, rental history, and overall suitability. It's like having a fairness superhero on your side.

Customisable for specific needs

You can customise your screening questionnaire to suit your specific rental property needs. Whether you have certain criteria or unique requirements for your property, you can tweak the questions accordingly.

What Questions Should You Ask Prospective Tenants?

While the exact questions you ask your tenants will be based on your individual needs, some common categories should cover in tenant screenings are below: 

Employment and income

  • Can you provide proof of employment, such as a recent pay stub or employment contract?
  • What is your monthly income after taxes?
  • Have you ever declared bankruptcy?

Rental History

  • Have you ever been evicted from a rental property? If yes, please provide details.
  • Can you provide contact information for your previous landlord(s)?
  • Did you consistently pay rent on time in your previous rental? If no, please explain.

Credit and financial responsibility

  • Do you have any outstanding debts or legal judgments against you?
  • Have you ever filed for personal bankruptcy?

Occupancy and lifestyle

  • How many people will be living in the rental unit?
  • Do you have any pets? If yes, please provide details.
  • Are you a smoker? If yes, are you willing to smoke only in designated areas?


  • Are you willing to maintain the property and perform necessary upkeep tasks?
  • Have you ever been involved in any disputes with a previous rental?


  • Can you provide personal references, such as friends or colleagues?
  • Can you provide professional references, such as previous employers or supervisors?

Checking Your Tenant References

Once you've received the tenant references, it's important actually to check them. Contact each reference and inquire about the applicant's tenancy history, financial responsibility, and other relevant information. Try to speak with previous landlords or employers directly.

Consider asking the following questions to get more information about your prospective tenant:

  • How long did the applicant rent the property?
  • Did they pay rent on time?
  • Did they take good care of the property?
  • Were there any complaints or issues during their tenancy?
  • Would you rent to them again in the future?
  • Can you provide additional comments or insights about their character and reliability as a tenant?

With this information, you can make an informed decision about whom to rent your property and ensure you find the right tenant. 

Looking Out for Red Flags

In addition to  tenant references, check for any red flags indicating potential problems. For example, if a reference is unwilling to provide information about the applicant or if they give contradictory responses, it should raise a red flag. Here are some red flags you should look out for when screening a tenant and checking their references:

🚩 Eviction history

If you discover that the applicant has a history of evictions or has been involved in legal disputes with previous landlords, it can indicate obvious potential problems with their ability to fulfil their rental obligations.

🚩 Payment issues

References may mention late or missed rent payments, or disputes over security deposits. These signs indicate financial irresponsibility and may indicate potential difficulties in collecting rent on time.

🚩 Poor communication or lack of cooperation

If references mention that the applicant was unresponsive to requests for repairs or failed to communicate effectively, it could indicate future problems in addressing maintenance issues or other concerns.

🚩 Property damage or neglect

References may highlight instances where the applicant caused significant damage to the property or failed to maintain it properly. This could be a warning sign of potential property upkeep and care issues.

🚩 Inconsistent employment history

If the applicant has a history of frequent job changes or unemployment, it may indicate potential difficulties in consistently maintaining a stable income to pay rent.

🚩 Negative character references

References who express concerns about the applicant's integrity, honesty, or reliability should not be ignored. These comments may indicate potential issues with the tenant's behaviour or trustworthiness.

🚩 Lack of rental history

If the applicant has little to no rental history or their references are primarily personal rather than professional, it can be challenging to assess their reliability as a tenant. Exercise caution, we all know you have to start somewhere when beginning your rental journey but you should consider additional screening measures for these applicants.

RentBetter Makes Applications and Tenant Screening a Breeze ✅

The screening process for tenants is an important part of property management and should be taken seriously. By evaluating a potential tenant's references, rental history, employment status, communication skills, payment habits, and character traits, you can make an informed decision about who will best meet your needs as a landlord. 

With careful consideration and attention to detail, you will have peace of mind knowing that your investment is in good hands with reliable renters!

RentBetter makes it easy to ensure you get the perfect tenant for your property. Our comprehensive tenant checks cover everything you need and takes the hassle away. When you advertise a property, tenants are directly to our online application system which asks them for all the essential items such as identification, financials, employment and rental history plus references and other important information.

You'll receive the applications direct to your RentBetter account, be able to check your tenant through the NTD and create a lease directly from the application.

Don't take chances when finding the perfect tenant for your property – use RentBetter today!