It can be incredibly stressful to end up with a bad tenant. There are quite a few horror stories that can be told from landlords who have had bad tenants. You don’t want to be able to relate to those true story accounts of terrible, nightmare tenant behavior. It can be hard to determine future tenant behavior based on a simple credit report. You’ll need to go beyond the credit report and figure out what tenants will give you trouble, and which ones will be a dream. Some landlords and property managers in Brighton can do this by instinct based on years of experience.
When screening tenants, you’ll want to dig deep into their background. It might feel nosy and intrusive, but it’s the only way to protect yourself as well as your property. You’ll need to set your standards and never deviate from them. Many landlords will tell you that they deviated from their own standards when renting to a bad tenant.
- Income at least 3 times the monthly rent
- Good references from all landlords
- No criminal history
- No evictions on record
Pre-Screening Your Potential Tenants
When you run your advertisement looking for applicants, make sure it’s incredibly detailed. Include a bit about the neighborhood or address to weed out those who don’t want to live there. Tell them your standards in the advertisement, so you can avoid those who don’t have enough money to pay the rent or those who will be disqualified based on criminal or rental history. This should be done in the first phone call as well. Always emphasize the standards to screen tenants before you even see them in person.
On the phone, try to get a sense of whether they are serious about the unit or have the means to pay for it. You can learn a lot of information by the questions they ask. If they want to know how much they need to move in, it’s likely they won’t be a great fit. You can’t always base their suitability on one phone call and the questions they ask, but that can be taken into the overall big picture when you meet them.
When meeting with tenants, a property management company in Brighton property management understands that you can often judge a candidate from the moment they exit their vehicle. Is it clean and well-maintained? Are they dress appropriately? Did they arrive ready to rent the apartment if they love it?
Always restate the minimum requirements for rental in case they misunderstood or didn’t listen to you on the phone. After showing them the apartment, have all potential tenants fill out an application.
The application must have certain sections for you to do a background check and check of their credit report. This will include their full name and address, social security number, current employment and current landlord. It needs to have sections for previous landlord information as well as the addresses.
It should also include a section for personal references. While these are handpicked people that will often have great things to say, if the person’s handpicked references like family and friends have bad things to say, you can cross them immediately off your list. At the end of the forms, you’ll need to have a place where the potential tenant signs to give you permission to do background, credit and criminal checks as well as landlord and employment verifications.
Don’t speak to a co-worker when you call to verify employment. You’ll want to talk to a supervisor or a HR manager in the company. Ask how long the person has been employed at the company, whether it’s a full or part time position and if it’ll continue.
Self-employed tenants should come with tax returns for the previous two years. You’ll be able to see if they have a consistent work history and the ability to pay the rent. If they subcontract with a few companies, they’ll still have tax returns you can verify, but you might need the help of an accountant to see through all the deductions and get an accurate income amount.
Advanced Screening Ideas and Denials
Check the person’s social media accounts to get a sense of how they are as a person. It works for employers, there’s no reason it can’t work for landlords screening tenants. The information is public knowledge. For example, if you don’t allow pets, but you see the candidate with a new puppy on her Facebook page, that’s a red flag.
You can drop by their home unexpectedly to see how they live. You might need another signature or have them fill out another form. It’ll give you a chance to see how they live currently, and surprise visits allow you to see them with the public mask removed.
When you have to deny an applicant, there are ways to do this without creating more hassle for yourself. First, you can require every applicant to pay a fee for the background check. Those who know they won’t pass will automatically disqualify themselves by not showing up with the fee.
If a candidate’s landlord doesn’t give a good reference, you can call the tenant and leave it at their doorstep. Tell the tenant that you need the landlord to call with a good reference, and ask them to speak to the landlord. You’ve left them with the next move, which will often cause the tenant to move on to another property.
When screening candidates, don’t violate any of the protected classes, ask whether a person has children or ask about their gender identity. There are state and local housing laws that you can’t violate as a landlord. Understand these laws fully before starting your search for a tenant if you’re new to the process.