Important Things To Screen For When Going Over a Rental Application

When a landlord is looking over a rental application, there are several key aspects of the application the landlord will want to look at when seeking low-risk tenants. Landlords will want to consider these aspects when reviewing each rental application as this helps them ensure they are not taking on unnecessary risks when renting out their properties.

Choosing quality tenants is in the best interest of the landlord to ensure their property is respected which will help minimize their repair and maintenance costs. It can also help limit the number of evictions and legal costs landlords incur. Quality tenants also help ensure more on-time payments that allow landlords to maintain a reliable source of income from their properties.

When reviewing applications, here are some things you want to look for in the information provided to ensure you are getting the best quality tenant possible:

1. Current & Prior Residence Information

You will want to inquire about where the person has lived in the past five years to determine their rental and living history. Also, include the current address. Require contact information for the current landlord they are renting from and talk to them about how this person(s) is as a tenant. If they have been living there any length of time the landlord will easily be able to tell you if there are any issues. Inquire about the most common issues such as if they pay their rent on time, if they have caused any property damage or if neighbors have had noise complaints. However, if you are able to contact previous landlords in cases where the tenant hasn’t lived in the current landlord’s property for an extended period of time, it may be worth checking out. Be aware of renters who try to offer you anyone’s information, but the previous landlord’s information. Many times you will get information to a friend or family member who is “covering” for their friend.

2. Ask About Past Evictions

Inquire about past evictions in the rental application and give the tenant a chance to explain what happened. At times, there might be legitimate explanations, but many times it can throw up a red flag. Also, check the rest of the renter’s history to see what kind of tenant they will make. For example, if they’ll admit they had an eviction 20 years ago when they lost a job, but have since rented without any issues, then it may be worth considering. However, if previous or current landlords are signaling they chronically pay late or not at all, that might be a clue this is a bad risk to take as a landlord.

3. Employment & Proof Of Income

Income is vital to being able to pay rent on time, so proof of steady income and ongoing employment should be something landlords check for on a rental application. Seeing that the renters make adequate money to pay the rent and are able to do so on time each month is imperative to ensure they will be good tenants.

Another red flag may be if the potential tenants have had several jobs in the past few years with long gaps of unemployment in between jobs. This may signal an inability to pay rent and associated fees if long periods of joblessness are typical in the household. Remember, it’s up to the tenant to provide most of this information.

For privacy’s sake, the most that almost all employers can provide is if that person is employed there at the time, so the tenants will have to provide the rest of the information. Proof of employment can be reasonable to request previous pay stubs or other proof of payment. If the pay stub gives you pause, don’t be afraid to dig in and ask more questions. While most applicants are simply trying to do their best to find housing legitimately, there’s always a possibility that a bad actor has provided a fake pay stub.

Pro Tip: If the applicant is self-employed, request something such as a ledger to view recent income or even bank statements stating when they deposit money and how much they deposit. See if that lines up with their “monthly income” claims.

landlord checking tenant credit score

4. Get Authorization To Check Credit Reports

Generally, landlords will need permission from the tenants to check their credit history as this is personal information. The best bet is to get this permission in written form so the tenants cannot come back at you for “prying” into their personal information. That way you have proof you got the potential tenant’s permission to check this information and it cannot come on you later after you use their permission to access that information.

5. Criminal History

Checking a potential client’s criminal history is important as it will not only tell you how safe your property is with this tenant living there, but how safe they are for the neighborhood or condo, apartment or housing complex which you run. If you have people with severe criminal backgrounds applying to be a tenant in your home, not only do you take risks as a landlord, but you expose the community to the dangers of whatever crimes this tenant has previously committed (and may commit again). Asking if a tenant has ever committed a felony on the rental application is another option. While it’s unreasonable to turn away a client for every little thing, like a traffic ticket, bigger issues should be known or you may find out the hard way.

6. Smoking Habits

If you offer non-smoking rentals and a client smokes – this could prove to be an issue. They may say they will only smoke outside, but if they do smoke indoors the smell can penetrate everything in the building and be very hard (and costly) to get out when their tenancy is up. When accepting clients that are smokers as tenants, be sure it is clearly stated in the rental application and then the lease that smoking indoors is not tolerated. If the tenants choose to smoke inside they will have to cover the damages caused.

7. Pets The Tenant Has

Ask the tenant to disclose what pets will be living with them when they move. Determine the pets that will be living with them as well as the number of pets and determine if they are permissible to you. You can now determine if you feel the need to charge nonrefundable/refundable pet deposits or if additional “pet rent” should be charged on a monthly basis. If you have a NO pet policy and the tenant has pets ask yourself if you are willing to accept the pets or make an exception with reasonable payment required for each pet. That’s something you and the tenant have to come to terms with before signing a lease.

Keep in mind, this list of eight items is by no means a comprehensive list of things to look for on a potential tenant application. While no one factor can determine who the “best” or “ideal” tenant is, a tenant that shows “red flags” in many or all of these categories may not be someone who fits your standards. In that case, it may be a better choice to move on. You should always assess and determine the risks to you as a landlord. After all, no one will take more care and pride in protecting you and your property better than you will.

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