9 Standards Tenants Must Meet to Qualify for a Rental

Legally Screen Tenants

Picture of Standards to Qualify Tenants for Rental
••• Jamie B/RooM/Getty Images

What Are Tenant Qualifying Standards?

Tenant qualifying standards are criteria a prospective tenant must meet before they can even be considered as a renter for your property. It is basically the first stage in the tenant screening process. These requirements must be the same for every single tenant who applies to fill a vacancy at your property. 

Tenant qualifying standards must be legal standards that relate to a tenant's ability to pay their rent and follow the terms of their lease agreement. For example, verifying that a tenant is making the income they claim to be is a lawful requirement. Asking for documentation to prove a prospective tenant's citizenship is not a lawful requirement.

Same Standards for All

You do not want to be accused of discrimination. Therefore, you must have the same qualifying standards for all prospective tenants.

It is illegal to alter these requirements or have different requirements because of someone’s age, race, gender, religion or any other characteristic protected under the Federal Fair Housing Act. For example, it would be illegal to have a qualifying standard that the tenant cannot have any children because this would be discrimination against families.

9 Examples of Tenant Qualifying Standards

Qualifying standards are a checklist for landlords. They allow you to screen tenants according to the same basic criteria.

Every landlord may have slightly different qualifying standards, and that is fine, as long as the standards are not in violation of any laws. Here are some examples. 

1. Maximum Number of People Per Apartment

For safety purposes, there is a maximum number of people that can reside in each rental unit. This is usually based on the number of bedrooms a unit has and your local fire codes.

Two people per bedroom is a general rule of thumb. So, for a two bedroom apartment, you can have a maximum occupancy of four people, unless your local code says otherwise. 

2. Copy of Valid Photo ID

You need some sort of proof that the prospective tenant is who they are claiming to be on their rental application. One way to do verify their identity is to ask for a valid government issued photo identification card. A driver's license is a common form of identification. On a driver's license, you will be able to verify the tenant's current address and their date of birth.

​3. Income Verification

You want to make sure that the tenant is actually bringing in the income they claim to be. You can verify a tenant's income by asking for W-2's, copies of pay stubs or copies of bank statements. 

4. Sufficient Income Level

You can require that all tenants have a monthly income of at least ‘X’ times greater than the monthly rent. You just have to make sure this requirement is the same for all tenants.

The income requirement will change based on the price of the rental. For example, you require an income level that is two times the monthly rent. For a rental that is $1,000 a month, the tenant must have a monthly income of at least $2,000. For a unit that rents for $2,000 a month, the tenant's income must be at least $4,000 a month. 

5. Employment Verification

You want to verify that the prospective tenant:

  1. Works where they claim to work.
  2. Makes the amount they claim to make
  3. That they are employed for the foreseeable future.

You can send a written notice to the tenant's place of employment requesting this information.

6. Credit Checks Will Be Run on All Applicants

 A credit check can help you determine if there is sufficient debt that could affect a tenant’s ability to pay their rent on time or if they have a generally poor credit history. The tenant must provide written consent in order for you to run the credit check. 

7. No History of Evictions

 A credit check can inform you if the tenant has been involved in any legal issues, such as an eviction. You want tenants who are going to pay their rent and stay for their entire lease term. 

​8. No Criminal History

A background check can turn up any history of criminal activity. This is important because you do not want to place a tenant in your building who is a threat to the safety of the other tenants. 

​9. Security Deposit of ‘X’ Amount Required

 The amount you can request will differ based on your state laws.