Cheat Sheet: Background Screening Your Short Term Renters


Cheat Sheet: Background Screening Your Short Term Renters

No matter what time of the year, there are always travellers looking to rent. With more than 2 million listings and 60 million users on Airbnb alone, the growing short term rental economy is a trend that brings strangers together to share space.

But if you’re one of the hosts in this rental economy, how do you know you’re sharing your space safely? Most tenants aren’t going to submit to a full credit and criminal background check for a stay of only a few days. But, by performing some simple common sense screening procedures, you can have peace of mind about your renters. Keep this checklist handy next time you’re preparing to rent your space!

Step 1: Decide on Your Ideal Tenant

Surprised this is the first item on a list about background screening? It’s more important than you think! If you’re renting a spare bedroom in Silicon Valley, your ideal renter may be startup professionals in town for business. If you’re offering a villa near the ocean in Florida, your ideal renter may be snowbirds who prefer to rent by the month. Outlining the kind of tenant you think is a perfect match is one of the best ways to watch out for red flags, because you know more about the tenant market you are in.

Remember that you will need to abide by the Federal Housing Administration (FHA) Fair Housing Act, as well as local and state laws regarding discrimination. In many jurisdictions, you are prohibited from discriminating based on sexual orientation, marital status, or your guests’ ages. Know your local laws before becoming a short term rental host!

Step 2: Phone Screen

Simply talking to your prospective renter is often the best way to screen! You can get to know each other briefly, and learn more about their rental history. Important questions include:

  • What is the purpose of your trip?
  • How many adults and/or children will be in the space?
  • Does anyone in your party smoke?
  • Will you be bringing pets? How many, and what breeds?

Questions that you should definitely not ask include:

  • What is your sexual orientation?
  • Is any member of your party Hispanic?
  • Are you pregnant?
  • What are the ages of everyone in your party?

Steer clear of Fair Housing Act violations by keeping a list of standard questions you ask every renter.

Step 3: Social Media Screen

This may be impossible for some renters, but more often than not is simple to accomplish. By running a search for their phone number or email address, it is frequently possible to turn up a social profile or three. However, the laws we discussed still apply here. Information found on the social media profiles of prospective renters cannot be used to discriminate against them.

If you are renting through a platform such as VRBO or Airbnb, read their full profile. Is it sparse and barely filled out, or have they obviously taken a lot of care to fill it out? Do they have a profile picture? Look for badges of verification and read carefully through their reviews.

That’s it! A quick three-step process to screen your potential renter. Short term rentals are a rapidly growing market with more and more spaces being added every day. Be smart, and stay safe!


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