HOW TO PROPERLY SCREEN PROSPECTIVE TENANTS
By Michael Hoover, General Manager of Mavi Unlimited Property Management and Real Estate.
When considering whether or not to approve an applicant, I look at 4 basic factors:
1) Credit Score – While many renters do not have excellent credit scores (why they may be renting in the first place), the score and, more importantly, the history of payments on credit accounts should be scrutinized. Ask your applicant to provide a credit report if possible and see if the applicant pays their bills on time. A string of missed payments should raise red flags. If this person struggles to make car payments, credit card payments, or other installment accounts on time, why do you think they’ll treat you any differently? However, someone who struggled 10 years ago might be perfectly responsible now. A credit report will read like a financial biography for most applicants.
2) Rental History – Talk to landlords. I am more interested in hearing what their landlord from a few years ago has to say than their current landlord. A past landlord has less incentive to lie to you, but a current landlord could simply want their problem tenant to move. Ask if they paid their rent on time and if there were any issues with damage when they left. Most importantly, would they rent to this person if again.
3) Income – Can a prospective tenant afford the rent? While it’s impossible to guarantee a tenant will pay you every month, you can at least see if it makes sense on paper. Our company requires household income of at least 3 times the monthly rent (i.e. a $1000 rental requires at least $3000 in gross (before tax) income). Many prospective tenants won’t be willing or able to provide you with a recent pay stub, so it’s fine to ask for bank account statements, tax returns, letters from bosses verifying salary, etc. in their place.
4) Background – Most background check providers show arrest records as well as court filings for housing related issues. It’s not a violation of Fair Housing Law to deny someone because of a felony in their past. Exceptions for smaller scale felonies such as drug possession and moving violations, etc. should be made based on your comfort level with each situation. If the thought of renting to a criminal worries you, do not feel pressured to let them into your rental home.
Please feel free to contact Mike Hoover with Mavi if you have questions about how to manage investment property.