Tenant Screening Best Practices for New Jersey Landlords – Guest Post

Tenant Screening Best Practices

As a landlord in New Jersey, tenant screening is a crucial aspect of your rental process. It helps you identify reliable and responsible tenants who will pay rent on time, maintain the property, and follow the lease agreement. However, tenant screening is also a legal process, and there are specific guidelines you must follow to avoid legal pitfalls. Here are some best practices for tenant screening for New Jersey landlords:

  1. Develop a Tenant Screening Policy

A tenant screening policy should outline your criteria for accepting or rejecting tenants. This policy should be consistent and applied to all applicants equally. Some factors to consider when developing your policy include credit history, income, employment status, and criminal history. Be sure to check with New Jersey’s landlord-tenant laws to ensure your policy does not violate any protected classes.

  1. Require a Rental Application

Make a rental application a must for all aspiring renters. This application should ask for personal information such as their full name, social security number, contact information, and rental history. Be sure to obtain written consent from the applicant to run a background check and credit check.

  1. Obtain a Credit Report

A credit report provides valuable information about a tenant’s financial history. It shows their current and past debts, payment history, and credit score. A credit report can give you insight into the tenant’s ability to pay rent on time and manage their finances responsibly. You must obtain written consent from the applicant to run a credit check.

  1. Verify Income and Employment

Verifying a tenant’s income and employment is essential to ensure they can afford the rent. Request that the tenant provides proof of income such as pay stubs, tax returns, or bank statements. Contact their employer to confirm their employment status and length of employment.

  1. Check Rental History

Contact the tenant’s previous landlords to verify their rental history. Ask about their payment history, any property damage, and their overall behavior as a tenant. You can also ask for references from employers, colleagues, or other non-family members.

  1. Conduct a Criminal Background Check

A criminal background check can help you identify any criminal activity or violent behavior that may pose a threat to the property or other tenants. However, it is crucial to ensure that your criminal background check complies with New Jersey’s fair housing laws.

  1. Adhere to Fair Housing Laws

New Jersey’s fair housing laws prohibit discrimination against protected classes such as race, gender, religion, and national origin. Your tenant screening policy must comply with these laws, and you must treat all applicants equally.


Can I run a credit check without the tenant’s written consent?

No, you must obtain written consent from the tenant before running a credit check. The tenant must sign a consent form that authorizes you to access their credit report. Failing to obtain written consent could result in legal consequences.

Can I ask about an applicant’s disabilities or medical conditions during the screening process?

No, asking about an applicant’s disabilities or medical conditions during the screening process is a violation of New Jersey’s fair housing laws. You cannot discriminate against applicants based on their disabilities or medical conditions.

How far back should I check an applicant’s criminal history?

You can check an applicant’s criminal history for the past seven years. However, certain offenses such as sex offenses and crimes involving violence or drugs have no time limit. You must also ensure that your criminal background check complies with New Jersey’s fair housing laws.

Can I reject an applicant based on their credit score alone?

No, you cannot reject an applicant based on their credit score alone. A credit score is just one factor to consider during the screening process. You must also consider their income, employment status, rental history, and other relevant factors. You must have a consistent and objective screening process that is applied equally to all applicants.


Tenant screening is a crucial aspect of the rental process, but it is also a legal process. As a New Jersey landlord, it is essential to develop a tenant screening policy, obtain written consent from applicants, and adhere to fair housing laws. By following these best practices, you can identify reliable tenants who will maintain your property and fulfill their lease agreement.

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