We consider tenant screening to be one of the most important aspects in having a rental property. When you hire a professional property manager who uses a very thorough and comprehensive screening process, you can be sure you are getting a well-qualified tenant. Here at Windsor, we will complete that process for you as part of a leasing service or as part of a full service property management contract. There are three particular things we look at closely when screening potential tenants.
We always look closely at an applicant’s credit report. Make sure the prospective tenant has really good credit. You want to check out the number of credit lines they have open and how often they have made late payments. Check for collection accounts, liens and bankruptcies. Currently, we are getting a lot of tenants with short sales and foreclosures on their record. We have to know how to handle that because it doesn’t mean they will be bad tenants, it just means they have some derogatory information on their credit report. You can always ask for a higher security deposit to offset the credit report.
Looking at the rental history is important because a tenant’s past behavior is indicative of how they will behave when they live in your property. We always call the current and prior landlords to verify the length of tenancy and the amount of rent they paid. You want to make sure the tenant was not struggling to afford a low rent and then want to move into your property, which is three times the amount of rent. You want to make sure they can afford what you charge.
To verify employment, we ask applicants for pay stubs and we call the current employer to verify start date and salary. You want to make sure that the information on the application is accurate.
In the past, we have had applicants try to get away with providing false information. For example, a tenant may put down a friend’s phone number and claim that friend is the current landlord. We have access to tax records that help us verify the actual owner of the property they are living in, and we can make sure we are talking to the real property owner or landlord. We have also had people submit a 1099 form for a future year’s income. We look at tax forms, pay stubs and employment verification so often that it’s easy for us to catch something that is not quite right.
Be thorough when you are screening a tenant, and act as an investigator. Look at everything carefully and don’t be afraid to question what doesn’t make sense. If you have any questions about tenant screening, please contact us at Windsor Pacific Property Management, and we’d be happy to help you.