Tenant screening may seem like a routine task but some tenant screening pitfalls can cause serious problems over time. Here are five things you should be watching for:
1. The first tenant screening pitfall is when landlords have a policy of only running tenant checks on the applicants that they don’t feel completely confident about. Other candidates, who seem like a sure bet, are off the hook. If you follow that policy, not only do you you risk being duped by a fast-talking problem tenant, but you could be accused of discrimination, if you are inadvertently applying a profile when deciding which tenants you trust — and which you don’t.
2. When there are going to be multiple occupants, including couples, don’t just run tenant checks on the “lead” tenant. Bad tenants who can’t get a lease in their own name may have no choice but to move in with someone else. All too often, problem tenants sneak into an apartment and lay low for a while. But think about what would happen if this bad tenant harms someone, or ends up in the unit alone? That’s why it’s crucial to screen each adult occupant.
3. Not using a rental application form leads to a number of problems. Without the information in this important landlord form, you will not be able to effectively screen this applicant, or manage the property. The rental application is the road map a collector needs to find a tenant who skips out. It contains the contact information you will need in case of an emergency. It also provides the authorization required to run a tenant background check.
4. Relying on a credit check alone. Without a doubt, tenant credit is a vital part of screening. However, it alone may not reveal significant issues with this rental applicant. You owe it to yourself, your other tenants, and your neighboring property owners to check for criminal history on each applicant — before that dangerous pattern is repeated. Eviction reports can tip you off that you are about to offer your property to a problem tenant. Using each of these reports and others, in conjunction with one another, is the best way to get a feel for this rental applicant’s qualifications, and to eliminate the risk of possible liabilities down the road.
And the 5th tenant screening pitfall is:
Dumping bad candidates early on not only saves time, but it makes it easier to screen tenants. Start with a sign or ad that has some specifics in it so you are not working with a candidate who doesn’t know whether they can afford the rent. Use a checklist of questions to ask prospects on the phone before you agree to give them a tour. Ask the same questions of every prospect. If the applicant can’t afford the unit, or has other issues, say “no thanks” and move on. That way, the candidates that make to the final cut are more likely to be qualified.
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