There are certain things that should alarm you, as you interview prospective tenants. These items are not necessarily deal breakers, but they are items that should concern you and cause you to investigate further. Here are a few things that you should watch for:
Potential tenant is concerned about a credit check.
A tenant who is hesitant to consent to a credit check is doing so for a reason. It might be a poor credit score, massive debt, a judgement against them, bankruptcy filing or even a history of evictions. You cannot run a credit check with out the tenants consent, IN WRITING! You should advise the tenant that failure to consent to the credit check will result in their removal from the applicant pool.
They have been evicted before!
If you find that your prospective tenant has a history of evictions, either by running a credit check or by speaking with a former landlord, you should run the other way. Evictions can be filed for a variety of reasons, but the most common reason is for nonpayment of rent. You want to avoid renting to tenants with previous evictions because these tenants were knowingly violating the terms of their lease agreement, but refused to leave until they were legally forced out.
The tenant has a Criminal History.
States don't always allow you to discriminate against your potential tenant if they have been convicted of a non-violent crime. Make sure you know your rights, and the rights of your tenant in this area.
As an example: You could make a strong case to refuse to rent to someone who has been convicted of dealing drugs or is a registered sex offender. It could put your other tenants in jeopardy. You may have a harder time refusing to rent to someone who went to jail for unpaid parking tickets.
The application is full of holes, or lies.
It is possible to make a mistake when filling out an application. And you may be lenient with those things. But a land lord must be wary of any potential tenant that blatantly misrepresents themselves on their application.
Verify their previous W2's. Call their employer. Confirm their work experience, and pay rate. Check with previous land lords, and contacts listed on their application. Confirm that the identification provided to you in authentic.
Make sure you inform your client that you will be doing all these things, and give yourself time to do so! If you find this process too tedious, you might consider taking THIS advice.