How Student Tenants Can Screen & Research Prospective Landlords

Monday, August 19, 2019

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Everyone knows that tenant screening takes place, but what about landlord evaluations?


Most landlords investigate a tenant’s history by doing credit checks, background checks, landlord references and more. We also recommend student tenants use a few techniques and resources available that allow the general public insight into prospective landlords and rental properties.


  1. Public Corporation or Individual Records:

    Without much strenuous research, prospective renters can dig up a decent amount of public information about property management companies or even individual landlords. For example, a tenant may be able to find tax records, criminal history and lawsuit records.

    If any of this type of documentation is found, it might be a red flag; especially if there are outstanding issues relating to their rental property or property management business.


  1. Public Property Records:

    In addition to corporation and individual records, many metropolitan cities operate a system where prospective tenants can gather public information about specific property addresses. These records can include information such as fire code violations, occupancy violations and other building safety documentation. For example, the city of Toronto has a simple online database that is able to pull-up property records in a matter of minutes.  

    If a property is found to have multiple violations or outstanding issues, this may be an indication that the property is not well maintained and may not be the best accommodation option.
  2. Online Ratings & Reviews:

    In the past, we discussed the importance of online reviews in the student housing market. Tenants are increasingly turning to online resources to discover information about apartments and landlords before committing to a lease. It’s fairly easy to find apartment ratings, whether it be on Google, Facebook, Yelp or other online resources. On the other hand, finding reviews for smaller independent landlords may be more difficult. It’s recommended to Google their name, address or phone number to track down rental property reviews.
  3. Talk to Current or Past Tenants:

    While this option won’t always be feasible with independent landlords, it should be fairly easy to get some feedback from current tenants for a larger apartment building or community. Ask some simple questions about what the current or previous tenants like or dislike about the property to gain valuable feedback about what to expect if a lease is signed. To gain more specific information, a prospective tenant could ask questions more geared towards the actual operations, maintenance process and staff that oversee the rental property.  

    In some instances, such as considering a rental unit within a single-family home and residential neighborhood, potential tenants may consider briefly talking to the neighbors instead.
  4. Interview the Landlord & Ask for Their References:

    More often than not, a landlord will want the opportunity to thoroughly interview and screen prospective tenants in person, which is the perfect opportunity to flip the tables and ask the landlord some questions. Prospective tenants should come prepared to any viewing with a set of pertinent questions which may not get covered in the rental tour, such as lease policies and restrictions. Other helpful questions for the landlord could include if they have past tenant testimonials to share and how long previous tenants have stayed for.
  5. Check for Rental Licensing (if applicable):

    Some cities have rental-licensing programs for residential properties that require landlords to register with the city and typically involve a property inspection with safety criteria to meet. For example, the city of Oshawa, ON has a residential rental housing program and Bethlehem, PA conducts housing inspections and issues certificates of occupancy.

    If a landlord offers rental accommodations in an area requiring licensing, but doesn’t have proof of certification, it may be a red flag (unless they are exempt from the regulations).

SEE ALSO: Tips for Last-Minute Moving To Dos

The Team