If you have been a landlord for any period of time, I am certain that you have taken some vacancy loss, or had late payers that, in turn, led to a tenant skipping out on rent owed. After you have that experience, you realize the need to screen prior to allowing a tenant to sign a lease for your rental property.
I have used a service for the past few years called e-renter. They allow you to run a credit check and/or a criminal background check. Obviously nothing is foolproof, but by doing some basic tenant screening, you can eliminate some of the worst potential rent loss issues.
I often tell the story of the owner of a duplex next to mine having an issue with a tenant and I asked her what screening service she used. She paused and answered “… ooohhh, maybe that is the problem”. She wasn’t screening at all and only collected 4 months of rent in her first 10 months of ownership. The first tenant was recently bankrupt and the second was headed there. Had she screened in advance, she would have gotten a better picture of her prospective tenant.
In addition to tenant screening, I encourage any landlord to be sure they check references. I have rented to people with less than perfect credit because their references were so solid and their story regarding the credit issues checked out. I have also had references throw their ‘friends’ under the bus and essentially say “you would be crazy to rent to them”.
Do your homework… screen your tenants… be a real person and learn the story before you accept the first person who says “I’ll take it”.