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Tenant Screening/Application Process - Best Practices?

We have a nice SFH that we rented out after we moved to a new home about 3 yrs ago.  The first tenants started out good, passed credit & background checks, no problems.  About 15 mos in, things started going badly, rent was later and later, communication seemed to be a problem (on their end) excuse after another.  Ended very ugly with an eviction and money still owed to us.  Thankfully they did not destroy the for a few fists/kicks thru the wall after being served their eviction notice.  We cleaned the place up & then rented it to my niece and her husband, young military couple, and they've been great tenants.  Unfortunately, they have to move now and we're looking to rent it out again.  We've placed ads & are getting a fair number of inquiries.  What is the best practice to screen these potential tenants?  In the past, we've shown the house (to see if it even suits them), then taken apps/fees to run credit/background checks, but we've only had to do this once so far.  Are we doing it wrong?  Should we be screening them further BEFORE showing the house & wasting our time on folks that won't be able to afford it or won't be able to pass on the credit check?  After the first nightmare experience, we're really looking for some input from other more experienced LLs.  Any advice & information would be greatly appreciated!  Thanks!

A thorough background check may not always save you from an ugly ending, however it can help. With a full credit and criminal check as well as contacting the the tenant's current landlord directly you can learn a lot. Make sure you verify the landlord is a landlord through research. Then also do an employer check and verify, you can write in your lease that it is required to notify the landlord if employment is changed or there is job loss.  If they do not it is a breach of contract and you have the right to evict them.  These are basic steps to really avoiding anything bad. Be a thorough as possible and good luck.
Thank you, Richard W!  I have a very qualified tenant based on income alone, but before I run their credit/background (ie incur a fee for them), I spent a few minutes browsing thru the court system (publicly avail. docket info) and found that one of the applicants has a CRIMINAL judgment just recently filed (2 mos ago).  The public info does not state what the offense was, but I am sure the background check will shed more light on it.  In this case, would you just say no and move on, ask them about it before running the background check, or wait until after the reports are run to address it?
What program or website is best for screening?
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