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We’ve all heard stories about tenant-landlord disputes, especially of tenants that make it very difficult for landlords to deal with them and evict them, if the need arises. That is why it is extremely important for all landlords to screen tenants, even if they have been recommended by family and friends. The biggest advantage of effective screening is that any warning signs of tenants who could be problematic in the future become apparent at an early stage.

 

Here are some tips on tenant screening to ensure that you get the right tenant:

 

Rental Application:

Make all prospective tenants fill out a rental application. The information provided by the applicant will help you decide if they have the right profile and if they would be a good fit for you. Make sure that the application is based on recommendations by the Housing Agency and always follow your state’s  rental and housing laws to ensure you are not sued for discrimination against any religion, race, income or gender.

 

Identity Check:

During the application process, it is generally recommended that you ask the applicant for photo identification. This is mainly for verification purposes. In addition, make sure that the application form asks for a driver’s license number as this information can be used to conduct a background search. Make a copy of the photo ID and also ask if the potential tenant owns a car and if yes, the license plate number of the car.

 

Background Check:

If you want limit the likelihood of ending up with a difficult tenant, always perform a background check. Do not fall for appearances or sweet talk as looks can be deceiving. A background check can reveal important things about your potential tenant including a history of skipping rent, damaging property, or any prior convictions.

 

Credit Check:

In addition to the background check, always perform a credit check as this will provide you with the individual’s credit history. To do this, you will need to get the applicant’s permission as well as his or her Social Security number.

 

Past Landlords:

Ask the applicant to provide details about previous landlords including names, addresses and duration of stay. This will help you verify if the applicant has had any issues with landlords in the past. You need to call the landlord(s)to obtain this information.

References:

You should always ask for character references. However, since some tenants can provide bogus letters, it is always a good idea to ask for phone numbers and follow-up.

 

Meeting in Person:

Never ever rent out your property to a person you have never seen. You must physically meet him or her. We live in a digital world and even though most communication is done via email or phone, a physical meeting is vital. This meeting will tell you a lot more about the person’s personality, amicability and other oddities that an email or a phone conversation wouldn’t uncover.

 

Protecting Yourself:

Always follow state laws when it comes to checking the background of potential tenants. Clearly state on the application form that the information provided will be used to perform a background and credit check. In addition, you should have a section where the applicant is required to give a signed consent for a credit check. Be honest and up-front.  Background checks are quite common in the rental screening process.

 

Code of Conduct:

In the application form or lease agreement, always include the code of conduct and the expectations from tenants. Have the prospective tenant read the application and lease and go over each point with them. Many landlords just give the applicant the documents to review and get back to them. This does not mean that the applicant has read the information so make sure they understand the specifics of the agreement. The rental application must be signed and dated to make it valid.

 

Judgment:

Finally, before you accept any tenant, use your instinct to follow-up on the candidate. If you suspect anything odd or abnormal about their personal information or behavior, the onus is on to you to screen them properly. There is nothing worse than getting a bad tenant. The leg work you do prior to accepting the tenant can save you a lot of hassle and money in the long-run.

 

Tenant screening is one of the most critical components of the rental process and should not be rushed or ignored. It is in the interest of both the landlord and the tenant to ensure that they are a good fit from the very beginning. If not, both parties suffer.

If you would like help with your rental property don’t hesitate to give us a call. We would be happy to speak with you and see if we can be of service.