By Michael Hoover, General Manager of Mavi Unlimited Property Management and Real Estate.
Once you’ve located a potential renter, it’s time to thoroughly investigate them to determine the likelihood of timely rent payments or only monthly headaches prior to signing a lease. Here are 5 tips to help you screen each of your applicants.
1) Credit Report – A credit report is a financial biography where you’ll be able to see the order in which someone prioritizes their monthly expenses and obligations. It’ll also show you when someone decided to get their financial house in order or if they never cared about their financial house. Look for these 3 things in a credit report.
• Credit score should be a factor, but be careful and do not put too much emphasis on a high score. As a landlord, your livelihood often relies on people with credit scores that are not high enough to qualify to buy a home.
• Look for collections or judgments from landlords. Landlords usually give tenants a lot of time before sending them to collection or taking them to court. A tenant who tells you they’ve been on time with every payment for years, but has results from a county court house vs. ABC Landlord Co isn’t being truthful.
• Next, look for housing related collections for utilities, cable, and internet. Tenants who leave without settling these monthly obligations often treat their monthly housing obligation to you the same way.
2) Landlord References – While you should talk to current landlords to verify payment history etc., spend more time checking with prior landlords. Current landlords with a terrible tenant will say anything to give you their problem tenant. Meanwhile prior landlords have very little incentive to be anything other than honest.
3) Income Verification – You can never be sure a tenant will pay their rent on time, but you can at least make sure they can afford to pay the rent. My formula is to require income at least three times the monthly rent before taxes. For example, $1000 rent needs $3000 per month in income. Be wary of tenants who are reluctant to provide their paystubs. You can also ask for bank statements or tax returns to verify someone’s income if they are self employed.
4) US Citizenship – It is important for landlords to know they must have a valid social security number to be able to collect a debt. Without a social security number, you won’t be able to enforce a court judgment and most collection companies won’t find the file worth their efforts.
5) Criminal History – Felons have a difficult time finding housing. Use this to your advantage and look at tenants deemed “undesirable” by everyone else. Simply make a decision based on your comfort level. While my company is not felon friendly, we occasionally rent to someone who was arrested for some less serious offense 20 years ago if everything else looks good.
While you can use these tips as a mandatory checklist, I recommend the “whole package” mentality, taking a step back and evaluating a potential tenant on all of these criteria together. My company’s almost nonexistent eviction rate is a testament to our effective tenant screening process.
Whether you chose to do it yourself or hire a management company, make sure your tenants are screened properly or you will pay for it in the end.
If you have questions about property management, contact Mike Hoover at 303-665-8944 or firstname.lastname@example.org.