What Is Tenant Screening?
Tenant screening refers to the process of taking the necessary cautionary steps to ensure that you only accept trouble-free tenants. Tenant screening is about verifying that the prospective tenants are who they say they are. Landlords and property managers in Calistoga or anywhere else in the country should use the rental application and other supporting documents as the basis of their screening process. Run the presented information against the information you can discover from the outside.
Try as much as possible to confirm the information on these documents. You will be looking for anything that doesn’t support the claims made by the prospective tenant via these documents or any other suspicious activity. If you come across something that raises a red flag, you should probably reject the application and avoid a potential bad tenant situation. It is your job as a property manager to use effective screening processes and pick the best possible candidate to fill your vacant unit.
What are The Key Things to Establish with a Tenant Screening Process?
The point of the screening process is to tell you three basic, but very important qualities of the applicant. These are:
- The prospective tenant will be able to make timely rent payments responsibly. A good way to guarantee this is by setting a rule which disqualifies applicants who don’t earn at least thrice the monthly rent of the apartment. Setting a figure below that might jeopardize the landlord’s ability to get his/her money on time.
- They will keep the housing unit in good condition. Make sure that the applicant is not the destructive type. Speaking with former landlords and property managers can help you get a perspective of the nature of the character you will be dealing with vis-à-vis destructive habits.
- They will not, in any way, be a nuisance to you, their neighbors and other residents in the complex. Look at police records and talk to the officials at their former residences to establish that the tenant is not involved in criminal activities that might put yourself and other residents at risk.
Use the screening process to determine these three things. A well-established property management company in Calistoga should have reliable procedures for tenant pre-screening, the actual screening, accepting, and denying rental applications.
Finding a Good Tenant
To get the most appropriate tenants for your vacancies, you must use the correct marketing strategies. Post your advertisement in densely populated areas and online. Take advantage of real estate sites like Zillow and Trulia as well as social media sites like Facebook and Twitter. Do not exaggerate. Make sure that your advertisement is totally clear on what type of tenants your apartment can support vis-à-vis employment and income. Honesty is key, don’t lie about the state of your apartment. Also, make sure that you list all your screening requirements on the advertisement.
Familiarize Yourself with Fair Housing Laws
It’s okay to reject tenant applications because of some reasons but not others. According to the Fair Housing Act, it is illegal to disallow a tenant based on religion, national origin, race, color, handicap, family status, or sex. This is what is referred to as the ‘protected class’ and discrimination based on any of these factors could result in a lawsuit. You can, however, reject an applicant based on factors such as violence in the past, poor credit history, and past evictions. When talking to prospective tenants, you can’t mention how your facility is situated in a pleasant Catholic neighborhood, or ask them about their family.
Drafting Your Tenant Application
The tenant application, as well as the leasing form, are your best chance at keeping people with questionable characters from making inroads into your property. First of all, tenant applications are long and could take anywhere from twenty minutes to fill. If a person is too lazy to do that what makes you think they will honor your agreement and pay rent on time? Second, if a person has a criminal record, bad credit history, past evictions or doesn’t meet any other requirements specified in the advertisement, the chances are that they won’t even bother filling the application only to have it rejected.
Key Things to Include In a Rental Application
Now that we have established that the rental application is the core of the tenant screening process, it important to know that you have included all the important sections. These are:
- Verifying the identity of your tenant. Ask for the applicant’s full names, current ZIP code, driver’s license number, social security number, and date of birth.
- Bankruptcy, eviction, and criminal questions. Ask your applicants if they have faced any of the above issues.
- Get their rental history. Ask for information about previous landlords going back the five years.
- Get their employment and income information. Ask for salaries and any other forms of earnings for current and previous employers going back five years.
- Get a consent form from the prospective tenant. A consent form gives you the go ahead to run a background check on them.
The information you obtain from the rental application will help you run a credit and background check on your applicants. Verify their income, employment information, and previous landlords. Co-signers and any other person who can be in trouble if the tenant fails to pay rent should be checked out too. If you reject a tenant’s application, make sure you let them know via a denial letter.