4 Reasons Screening Your Tenants Will Help You Get Ideal Tenants
Every landlord hopes to find the ideal tenant – a quiet person who maintains the property in good shape, pays the rent, gets along with the neighbors, and reports needed repairs on time. Good tenants create a symbiotic relationship with their landlord that makes it a win-win situation for all.
Unfortunately, sometimes bad tenants slip through the cracks even when landlords try their hardest to avoid approving problematic applicants.
It’s difficult, if not impossible, to identify a bad tenant just by meeting them in person or reviewing their application. Without screening your tenants, you won’t know what you’re getting.
- Bad tenants can present exactly like an ideal tenant
Think you can spot an ideal tenant when meeting someone for the first time? Think again. Not all bad tenants are disheveled and incoherent. Many are well-dressed professionals, drive nice cars, and are well-spoken. Underneath the veneer, they’re hiding some dark secrets that you may not see.
You can discover some of those secrets by running a background and credit check. For example, a background check might reveal a criminal history of selling drugs and possibly a weapons violation. You might find domestic violence cases that resulted in the courts granting someone an order of protection against your applicant.
Tenant screening services are a critical component in the tenant selection process. You can’t judge an applicant based on their presentation, no matter how professional they seem.
- Tenant screening will turn up certain red flags
If you can read body language and catch potential inconsistencies in a person’s tone of voice you might be able to spot some red flags during a brief interaction. However, for the big red flags, you’ll need to rely on screening services.
Some potential red flags that will only come up during the screening process include:
- A history of bankruptcies
- A history of evictions
- Unpaid credit cards and loans
- Criminal convictions along with details applicants may have left out
- A requirement to register as a sex offender
- A history of violence or drugs
If you don’t screen your tenants, you might accept a violent criminal’s application without knowing. The more applicants you weed out through red flags, the easier it will be to find an ideal tenant.
- Small risks are no longer worth taking
Prior to the pandemic, some small risks were worth taking. For example, it’s not always a bad idea to make an exception for an applicant with a low credit score if their debt is older and they don’t have any new loans or lines of credit. Sometimes people have learned their lesson and are not actively getting into debt. However, that’s no longer a small risk.
During the pandemic, people have been taking out new loans and new lines of credit just to survive. Many aren’t able to pay back those loans. Some missed payments might be on a credit report, but it will be a while before those accounts are officially in default.
You can’t know whether a couple of recently missed payments are actually the beginning of someone defaulting on their loan or credit line by not paying. If that particular applicant has also just lost their job, they might be able to provide you with a recent pay stub. However, you won’t know they’re currently unemployed unless you verify their employment.
If you rent to someone who can’t pay their bills, you may never get them out of your rental property. While some federal judges have struck down the national eviction moratorium, not all states are complying.
New landlord-tenant laws make it harder to evict problematic tenants
Washington state recently passed a law making it illegal to give notice to a tenant without cause. According to the new law, there are only 16 reasons a landlord may give notice to a tenant. Although journalists refer to evictions, the law applies to all notices to vacate – even 30 or 60-day notices not associated with the eviction process.
- Avoid interviews
This may sound backward, but don’t conduct interviews. Interviews aren’t as helpful as they seem. For instance, bad tenants know how to act and dress to fool people. You won’t pick up on anything major in an interview.
Worse, conducting an interview could set you up for a Fair Housing discrimination lawsuit even if you don’t do anything wrong. Some people go to interviews intentionally looking for a reason to claim discrimination.
Ideal tenants are out there
It’s not impossible to find ideal tenants if you know what to look for. Did an applicant show up on time for a showing? Did they ask questions about the neighborhood or request clarification about the lease? These are good signs to watch out for. However, don’t skip the screening process – that will be your best filtering method to find your ideal tenant.