The first—and most important—part of screening a potential subtenant is checking their income. After all, it's the number one indicator of whether or not they'll pay the rent. If you're planning to review an applicant's income on your own, we suggest you follow the below steps.
1. Double-check their employment and salary
You should start by making sure your applicant works where they say they do—and that they've accurately reported their salary. First, call their company to verify that the applicant actually works for them. Beyond that, the verification process will vary based on the type of job your applicant has.
If they work a salaried job, then screening them is simple. You can ask for:
- An offer letter or employment contract from their employer
- W4 forms from the most recent tax year
- Pay stubs
- Bank statements
If they work freelance, then verifying their income is more complicated. You can ask for:
- Copies of all their active contracts (which should extend through the period of your sublease)
- Bank statements (incoming wires should correspond to the amounts of the contracts)
2. Verify any income from assets, if applicable
Additional savings and investment accounts can complement your understanding of an applicant's monthly cash flow. Most landlords put little faith in income from assets and investment accounts, however, because it's difficult to know if they can actually be spent on rent. (For instance, even $20,000 in a Roth IRA won't help with current expenses.) Still, you can verify any income from assets with a combination of bank statements and tax returns, just as with income from employment.
3. Consider their job security and employment prospects
Regular income from employment is only as good as your applicant's job security. What if they lose their job and can't find another one? They'll have to move out, leaving you in the lurch. This is why you should also investigate more qualitative inputs, such as education and professional skill set.
For example, if one applicant has worked for over a year as a software engineer at a reputable technology company, then the chances are high that they'll be able to pick up another job like it (or enough freelance roles to cover rent). If, on the other hand, they're working their first job in a new field—and have been there for less than six months—place more weight on how low their expenses are and how high and safely invested their savings are.
4. Analyze their monthly expenses
Get a sense of how much cash is leaving their accounts per month, in addition to rent payments. You can do this in two ways: using a credit report or analyzing their bank statements.
Most credit reports will include a summary of the applicant's open and closed accounts with financial institutions and their payment history. Get a sense of how often they've paid these bills in the past, as well as how regularly the expenses occur and how much of their monthly income goes towards these expenses. The credit score itself is an indicator of the person's tendency to pay bills on time and how much debt they've taken on with credit card providers.
Look at their bank statements to locate any debits that occur regularly month after month. Common monthly expenses include insurance payments and student loan payments. Also, take note of the average balance they keep.
The information provided on this website does not, and is not intended to, constitute legal advice.