Before beginning the search for a tenant, make sure you have a lease form you are willing to sign immediately. Many a deal has been lost because one side or the other said, “Can I get back to you with a contract after I talk to my lawyer?” Before your lawyer even returns your phone call, your tenant prospect will have found somewhere else to live.
In addition, you will need a rental application that provides some standard background information such as current employer and length of employment, current residence address and length of time at that address, all prior addresses for the last five years, and contact information for the current landlord and permission to contact him or her as a reference. Of course, you want to be very careful about checking a current landlord for information about there tenant, that landlord might come down on their rent, or offer other incentives, if they know their tenant is shopping for something different. You should ask how many people will be living in the house, but you are not allowed to ask about the ages of the people. Most jurisdictions let you limit residents to no more than two per bedroom without running afoul of any antidiscrimination laws.
You should have a form giving you permission to run a background check, including obtaining a credit report and score. There should be a space for the prospective tenant to put his or her social security number. Make sure you keep those applications in a safe place, and do not discard them in the trash unless they have been shredded. Otherwise, you could contribute to identify theft.
Depending on your local laws, you may have an obligation to determine that your tenant is a legal resident of the United States. It is a good idea to do this, even if not required under the law. The most common forms of proof include:
• Official birth certificate issued by a U.S. state, jurisdiction, or territory (Puerto Rico, U.S. Virgin Islands, Northern Mariana Islands, American Samoa, Swain’s Island, Guam);
• U.S. Government-issued certified birth certificate;
• U.S. Certificate of Birth Abroad (DS-1350 or FS-545);
• Report of Birth Abroad of a Citizen of the U.S. (FS-240);
• Valid or expired U.S. passport;
• Certificate of Citizenship (N560 or N561);
• Certificate of Naturalization (N550, N570 or N578);
• Unexpired U.S. Active Duty/Retiree/Reservist Military ID Card
• U.S. Citizen Identification Card (I-197, I-179);
• INS I-551 Permanent Resident Alien Card (the so-called green card);
• Foreign passport stamped by the U.S. Government indicating that the holder has been Processed for I-551;
• Permanent Resident Re-entry Permit (I-327);
• Temporary I-551 stamp on Form I-94, Arrival/Departure
Record, with photograph of applicant;;
• U.S. Department of Receptions and Placement Program
Assurance Form (Refugee) and I-94 stamped refugee; and,
• Form I-94 Record of Arrival and Departure stamped Asylee, Parolee or Parole, refugee, asylum, HP (humanitarian parolee), or PIP (public interest parolee).