Screening a Prospective Tenant
Without question, the most important part of any rental transaction is the screening of a prospective tenant through the rental application. Verification of rental or housing history, credit, and employment virtually ensures a tenant that will pay on time and maintain your rental property.
The names, ages, relationship, and social security numbers of all those applying to live in the property must be on the application. This information is necessary to be able to do a credit check along with the signature and permission of those applying for a credit check to be completed on them. There are several ways of getting a credit report on a prospect. Professional Management Companies usually belong to a credit reporting agency that will provide them with a tenant’s credit report. A report can be obtained through the internet by the applicant or they might already have a recent copy to give with their application. A credit report will not only show a tenant’s payment history but it will verify other information such as employment and previous residences.
The prospect’s previous address is needed so that a background check can be made. If the prospect rented, the previous landlord can be called to find out if they paid their rent on time and if they took care of the property and received the deposit back. If they sold their home, the REALTOR that sold the house or the individual that purchased it can be contacted to find out if the house and yard were left in good condition. Military tenants who lived in government housing have to pass an inspection at move out. The inspection results can be verified by contacting the housing officer at the installation they moved from. A background check of the tenant’s previous residence is the most important step of the screening. You want to know how these people take care of property. They will almost always treat your rental the same way they treated their previous one.
You must verify the employment of all prospective tenants. Call their supervisor or employer and make sure they are in a stable job and if they are Military, find out if they are due PSC orders, deployment, or retirement. The Military Clause will allow them to break the lease with a 30 day notice if any of these situations occur.
It is a good idea to ask what type and how many vehicles the prospect has and get the license plate numbers. This comes in handy later if other cars are present it can indicate unauthorized persons living in the rental. If there is limited space available for parking there could be serious problems for the tenant with multiple vehicles and you don’t want them parking on the grass. Some areas have restrictive covenants that don’t allow boats or RV’s and this should be addressed up front.
Ask for nearest relatives or emergency contacts of prospective tenants. This information is very helpful if you have future problems and have to locate your tenant. Don’t hesitate to ask pertinent questions such as if they have ever been evicted or late with the rent and if their current lease has expired? If you have carpet and a lawn better ask if they own a vacuum and a lawn mower.
You must have the applicant’s permission to verify any information given on the application. The tenant should also declare that the information given on the application is true and correct. If you later find that the tenant falsified the application, it can be a cause to terminate the lease agreement.
-J. Matthew Scheel | Owner of Sundance Rental Management, Inc.