Tips for Landlords: How to Screen Individual Property Management Candidates

The best way to avoid lawsuits and other problems with a property manager or other employee is to hire someone who is well qualified and has a clean record. These tips provide guidance on how to do your due diligence in screening candidates and choosing the best person for the job.

When advertising and screening candidates for any position, comply with all federal, state, and local antidiscrimination laws. Don’t discriminate on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, national origin, age, or handicap. Technically, Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, which prohibits such discrimination, applies only to employers who have 15 or more employees, but you should comply with all antidiscrimination laws to avoid any possible lawsuit.

Detailing your property manager’s job responsibilities

To enable candidates to screen themselves, provide them with a list of property manager job responsibilities, which may include the following:

  • Perform rental market surveys and advise on setting the rental rate

  • Prepare, advertise, and show rental units to prospective renters

  • Screen and select applicants

  • Prepare leases and rental agreements and all legal forms

  • Process new residents upon move-in

  • Perform property inspections as required

  • Collect and deposit rent payments and security deposits and pay bills (including the mortgage, property taxes, and insurance, if you don’t pay directly)

  • Prepare regular accounting reports

  • Maintain and repair rental units and common areas

  • Respond in a timely manner to resident requests and complaints

  • Enforce lease terms consistently and fairly

  • Understand and comply with federal, state, and local laws that govern rental properties

Evaluating skills and experience

As you read through applications, cover letters, and resumes and interview candidates of a position as property manager, look for the following traits:

  • Experienced (ideally at least two years’ experience in managing rental properties)

  • Computer literate

  • Able to handle basic accounting

  • Skilled in marketing and sales

  • Handy — able to perform light janitorial and basic repairs and maintenance

  • Personable

  • Firm but patient

  • Articulate (speaking and writing)

  • Skilled at solving problems

  • Organized and efficient

  • Knowledgeable of federal, state, and local housing laws

Checking work history

The best indication of a candidate’s ability to manage rental properties is a work history showing that the person effectively managed rental properties in the past or held positions that required many of the same skills you’re looking for in a property manager.

Check the person’s self-reported work history, giving priority to candidates who’ve managed rental properties in the past. Call past employers and supervisors to verify past employment and gather insight into the candidate’s job performance in those positions. Here are some questions you may want to ask a candidate’s past employers and supervisors:

  • How long did this person work for you?

  • Why did the person leave?

  • Was the person reliable? Did he show up for work on time?

  • Was this person honest and trustworthy?

  • Would you recommend that I hire this person? Why?

Performing a credit check

If your state permits using credit checks to screen job candidates, obtain a copy of the candidate’s credit report and review it for any serious issues, including a high level of debt, unpaid bills, and late payments. A poor credit history may indicate that the candidate is

  • Irresponsible

  • Unable to handle basic accounting tasks

  • In a desperate financial situation, which may be a motivation for theft

Performing a criminal background check

As a condition of employment, require that all candidates consent to a criminal background check, and then order a criminal background check for any candidate under serious consideration. Screening out candidates who’ve been convicted of crimes protects you and your residents.

Search the national sex offender registry to determine whether the applicant has been convicted of a sex offense. Hiring someone who’s listed on the national sex offender registry to be your resident property manager not only exposes your residents and perhaps their children to a potential risk, but it also likely will hurt your business.

Researching the person’s driving record

Prior to hiring a property manager, check the candidate’s driving record with the bureau of motor vehicles in whichever states the person has recently held a driver’s license. A candidate who has few or no accidents and traffic violations poses less of a safety risk to your residents and exposes you to less risk, particularly if the person will be driving a vehicle you own.

You can access driving records on most state bureau of motor vehicles websites for free or for a small fee. Consider having the candidate access his driving record online in your office, so you can review it.

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