Chances are, if you've rented a house or apartment before, this isn't your first rodeo. First time renters might be curious about what types of things landlords typically look for when screen their tenants, and if you're competing for a place against other potential tenants then it might not be a bad idea to find out yourself.
The first thing you'll want to know is that every landlord or property management company is different, and each is going to be looking for different things. A lower income based apartment complex might not go as in-depth, or be as strict as a landlord who is renting out their first investment property. When you are interested in a property, the landlord or property manager will usually have some forms for you to fill out. This form typically asks questions about your work history, current finances, and previous living situation.
Once the company has all of the information they are satisfied with, they then input the information into a "screener". Different screeners do different things, so it's impossible to predict how in-depth the screener will go. A lot of them will check your credit score with the three major credit bureaus. Some will take it a bit further and make inquiries about whether or not you were honest while answering the eviction question. Furthermore, some screeners will make background checks on your criminal history, and verify that you're name doesn't pop up in the sex offender or terrorist database.
When all of the information has been collected, they move on to their evaluation period. As you might expect, the credit check is to make sure you bring in enough income to afford the rent. On the financial section of the application, it usually asks about any other financial responsibilities which they use to gauge your ability to pay rent on time. Basically, as with a loan, the more financial responsibility you have, the better it looks. The eviction report and other database searches are pretty self-explanatory. Many landlords and property management companies won't accept a tenant that has had a previous eviction. Lastly, the landlord will check on any landlord references you have listed to verify anything or answer any questions they may have concerns about.
The whole screening process typically only lasts 2-3 days, depending on how many applications are received. Most of the time, it comes down to a first come, first serve basis. So if you apply early, and are financially responsible, you're very likely to get the house or apartment.
For more information about tenant screening, contact Metropolitan Tenant or a similar company.