Tenant Screening Lessons from the Trenches

Child with cellDo You Have the Techno-Savvy to Screen Younger Tenants?

Veteran property manager Wallace Gibson of Gibson Management Group, Ltd., in Virginia responded to our article Is Your Lease Application Falling Short? with his own list of great tips, gleaned from forty years in the property management business.  Here’s some of his sage advice:

Tenant Credit Checks

Running a credit check with a FAKE SS# with the information on an application actually CREATES a “credit identity” for that person – so that the NEXT time the information is requested it is actually THERE with ‘no credit’ reported….this should be a danger sign for would-be landlords…

Tenant Screening Checklist

When screening a tenant, I always:

1) take credit/application fees by personal check.  I want to verify the information on the check vs. the information on the application AND I want to check the CHECK NUMBERS to see how “old” they have had the bank account….yes, I know that you can start your checks at any #; however, most people don’t know this and automatically start at 100.

2) get applications on all adult applicants – husband, wife, children over 18, live-in parents….I want as much information on them ALL since they probably do have credit files.

3) if they are moving from a local home, I drive by it…I want to see how high the grass is; if they respect their neighbors and maintain the yard; if they have boat/RV or other vehicle that may be parked on the lawn at my rental home.

4) if they are selling their current home, I check the MLS to see what tidbits their listing Realtor has said about their house….if there is a short sale offered, they may be in financial straights so that if the home is sold or foreclosed, they may declare bankruptcy while in my rental property.

Tenant Lease Application

I changed my application forms several years ago….I NOW ask for DOB, cell phone # and e-mail addresseslocal land lines are now elective for many residents; however, they WILL most likely keep their cell phone # when they move as well as their e-mail.

Some tech savvy landlords with younger rental applicants check their listings on facebook or myspace and read their blogs.   All’s fair in love and resident screening…..

Gibson Management Group, Ltd., is a full-service property management company offering 40 years of professional property management services.  Their management program is tailored to high end single family homes of character, country and estate properties as well as town homes. They offer listings in the city of Charlottesville, Virginia and Albemarle County as well as Greene and Louisa Counties and the Lake Monticello area of Fluvanna County.

Other members want to hear your advice on tenant screening! Please share your insights by leaving your comment below.

Thorough tenant screening is only half the battle. You also need to know how to maintain current and complete tenant files.  Learn how in How-To Tips for Tenant File Maintenance.

Collecting references is only valuable if you check them. See Tips for Checking Personal References.

Need help drafting a Lease Agreement?  See our four-part series How to Draft a Solid Lease Agreement.

American Apartment Owners Association offers discounts on products and services related to your commercial housing investment including REAL ESTATE FORMS, tenant debt collection, tenant background checks, insurance and financing.  Find out more at www.joinaaoa.org.

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