When you’re screening tenants, the most important thing to be thinking about is fair housing compliance. Of course you want to think about whether they’re qualified. And, yes, you’re trying to determine whether your applicants can be relied upon to pay rent on time every month, take care of the property, and follow the terms of your lease agreement.
Complying with all state and federal fair housing laws, however, is critical.
Sometimes, applications are tricky. Maybe there isn’t any credit history or the landlord references you’d have to call are outside of the country. How do you manage these challenges?
Establishing Rental Criteria
Every screening process has to start with an established set of qualifying rental criteria. This tells potential residents what you’re looking for when you screen applications. They can determine whether or not they want to apply for your property based on whether or not they believe they will get approved.
We post our rental criteria on our website, and we also provide it to applicants after they’ve seen a property. Our criteria is specific, it references the credit score we’re looking for and the minimum income amounts. We state that preference is given to applicants that meet all of our basic criteria and are willing to sign a long term lease agreement.
Prospective residents can even get tips on how to make their application more attractive. We advise them to provide the required documents quickly, agree to a lease term longer than 12 months, and agree to move in on the advertised available date.
Trust but Verify When Screening
You might come across an application where no credit history is available. You might also find that a rental history is difficult to track down.
In such cases, you’ll want to pay more attention to the information you can verify. You also have the option of collecting a larger security deposit when you find there’s a greater risk of approving a resident who cannot provide the information that you’re seeking.
We are clear about this in our rental criteria and on our website as well.
Don’t take your tenant’s word for it when it comes to collecting information on credit, income, or rental history. You want to ask for documentation and verification. Look at pay stubs. Talk to employers. Collect bank records and tax forms.
It’s critical that you execute the same process consistently across all of the applications that you receive. This protects you from any potential fair housing complaints or claims. It also ensures you’re being thorough in your process.
Establish Some Non-Negotiables
Some of your screening process must include metrics that are non-negotiable. For example, you don’t want to see any landlord collections. If a resident has an outstanding debt to a prior landlord and they aren’t paying that debt off, it’s not a good idea to rent to them. You know that they aren’t likely to meet their financial responsibilities.
If you have any questions about screening applications or you need help with complicated tenant backgrounds, please contact us at Advantage Property Management Services. We’d be happy to work with you.