Screening Tenants

Tenant Screening Red Flags

  • Post category:News

Landlords and property managers know that tenant screening matters immensely for the hiring process and that the importance of each background check cannot be overemphasized. If you want to avoid all the hassle that comes with renting, it’s best to do proper screening of your applicants. That way, you can avoid a lot of rent loss and be more efficient with your property management.

A standard screening process is a good way for landlords & tenants to have peace of mind while they sign a lease together.

We’ve put together a list of qualities renters should have to signal that they may be a good tenant. If you notice any red flags, don’t hesitate to talk to them about it during the application process and see what they say.

Obvious Tenant Screening Red Flags

Unfortunately, in this instance, the applicant’s credit rating, history of evictions and criminal record have directly impacted their application.

  • Good Credit – Checking your applicants credit before issuing them a unit can give you a good idea of how reliable they are.
  • Pay attention to the eviction record of your prospective tenant. Tenant eviction reports can cost the landlord a lot of time, income, and headaches.
  • Landlords can legally reject applicants based on their criminal records – if a tenant has a record for not respecting the building, for example by vandalizing it, the landlord should be able to turn them down. Landlords cannot discriminate against people with criminal records. Those without should still have an opportunity to rent a property, according to the Fair Housing Act

Housing providers can access tenant screening reports that are paid for upfront with a rental application fee to find out about red flags and past records. These tenant screening reports typically include credit reports, criminal background reports, eviction history and more.

Subtle Tenant Screening Red Flags

Beyond a standard report, there are a few other red flags for landlords to watch out for during the application process.

The first point of contact between you and an applicant is where it all begins as this decides the outcome. Did they follow your instructions? Did they call ahead?  Did they call you when you asked for an email? Did they disturb anyone who was previously living in your house when you specifically told them not to?

A great way to test an applicant’s professionalism right off the bat is by closely examining their first interactions with you. For instance, a landlord should look for polite and attentive behaviors that indicate they are worth looking closer at in terms of quality of application.

Subtle Red Flags

  • Applicants should not be afraid to provide personal information when applying for a rental unit. Most qualified tenants know this, and do not have anything to hide moving forward with the application process. It makes sense to verify someone’s employment, credit score and references – if you do find something that raises a concern, it might be wise to investigate further
  • Blanks or Mistakes on the Application – Serious renters should treat their rental application like a job application, which entails taking care to fill out the application in its entirety and double-checking for any mistakes. Empty spaces, blanks or mistakes could mean lower chances of someone being approved for that unit.  A bad street name or inaccurate phone number can show that the landlord didn’t care, but it could also be an attempt to mislead a potential renter. 
  • Hesitation or Resistance about providing their Social Security Number – With the prevalence of identity theft nowadays, some people are very wary about providing their social security number. Experienced renters know that credit checks are part of the rental process and understand that it’s just a way to establish what kind of financial profile you have.  A thorough screening process demonstrates that you value finding the best possible renters, which will be appreciated by a qualified tenant
  • Family member address – While there might be legitimate reasons for an applicant to claim they are living with a family member, they could also be hiding their past landlord.  It is not uncommon for people with housing histories to live with family members or use them as a landlord reference.
  • Verifiable Landlord Reference – The best way to see if a tenant will be suitable for the property is to ask about their previous rental history, not about other details that are unrelated.  Did the tenant have a history of late payments?  I see you have a lot of questions about your tenant. Let’s take a look at them one by one to clear things up. Did the tenant terminate their lease early? How much of the security deposit was refunded? Late payments, disrespect for lease terms and giving up all the security deposit are all big red flags for whose tenancy may prove to be difficult.
  • Moving Too Often Tenancy is a landlords dream and by checking on the applicants previous move history you can be able to tell if they’re on their way back down again. Applicants that have moved more than 3 times in the last 5 years may require additional inspection. Do they have a hard time staying in one place? Does difficulty finding a job follow them?

While there are several warning signs about approving a renter you might want to be aware of, it is important to stay compliant with the law.  As a landlord or property manager, you must always provide legitimate reasons for denying an applicant. These reasons should be in line with the Fair Housing Act and your own company’s criteria. You aren’t allowed to discriminate based on any criteria whatsoever when it comes to rental applicants.

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