Tenant Applicant Review
Renting a home in the San Antonio area? Well, finding the right tenant is the most important step in renting out your home. Some landlords may want to jump the gun, they are just so happy after all the hard work to get their property “rent ready”, advertising, and getting these people to the door, they are thrilled to have someone ready to move in. They are lured by someone who presents themselves well and has a wad of cash ready to move in. They tell you that your home is beautiful and that they will treat it like their own, many times boasting about what great rental history, references, and jobs they have. So, what’s wrong with taking their cash and letting them move right in so you can start receiving the benefits of all your hard work? Plenty, and below is outlined some important steps and a few reasons why following up with due diligence is absolutely necessary at this critical stage of investment property ownership.
Renting a home without having a prospective resident go through the basic steps of approval can not only be financially irresponsible, but also may cause you to be irresponsible in your civic duties as well. How do you determine if this person is who they say they are? How do you determine that they truly have the means and responsibility to pay the rent? Are they a threat to the health, safety and welfare of the neighborhood? Credit and background checks are a good first step in that due diligence.
Prior to even accepting applications, you should research credit and background check companies to find one that will be a good fit for your needs. Credit and background checks often cost around $25 per applicant. Once you have a company in place to run credit and criminal background checks, see whether the company has an application you can utilize; or search for free landlord forms to find one. As people come to see your property and show an interest in renting from you, make sure you have a rental application on hand. It is also a good idea to do all of the following:
- Verify their identity by referencing their state ID with the information on the application
- Verify their income with recent paycheck stubs or bank statements, etc.
- Identify all residents who will be living in the home
- Identify any pets (if applicable) with weight, color and breed
You should collect a fee from the applicant prior to processing the application. This not only reimburses you for the fee you will have to pay the credit agency, but will also help determine that the applicant is a serious candidate for your property. Then once you have the application filled out and signed, allowing you to process or send it to the credit and criminal reporting agency, do just that: send it off and wait for the response, which usually takes 24-72 hours. While the application is being processed, follow up on the employment (if applicable) reference. Contact the prospective renter’s employer and ask whether the tenant is employed. Most employers will not give out specific personal information about the employee’s pay, however, they can verify that they do work there and if they are employed full or part time, etc. Be mindful of how the “employer” answers the phone to ensure that it is actually a business, not just one of the tenant’s friends.
Next, contact current and past landlord and personal references. Keep in mind if a prospective renter is being evicted, the current landlord most likely cannot or will not give negative information. That is why it is important to request 2-3 past landlord references. Ask each landlord reference the following:
- Did the renter fulfill the terms of the lease?
- How many times were they late on the rent?
- Were they evicted or asked to leave?
- What was the condition of the home when vacated, or did they receive back their full deposit?
- Would the landlord rent to them again?
Keep in mind family members or friends should not be considered rental references. Also keep in mind that a landlord who is not happy with a current tenant, may be thrilled to give a rave review just to get them approved elsewhere, again, a good reason to make sure you are checking both current landlord and past. Residential verifications can be a highly effective tool in screening your applicant.
After looking at the credit and criminal background and finding the prospective resident to be a good risk, you must also take the rest of your findings to build a picture of the people who wish to move into your home. If all things come together and the prospective renter looks like someone you wish to take care of your property for the next year or two, let them know they are approved and set a move in date.
However, if the fit is not right and for whatever reason you decide not to have the person rent your home, then you must let the resident know you are not going to be renting to them at this time. It is best to call and follow up with a written correspondence (email is acceptable) stating the reason for not accepting the application such as: “We will not be extending an invitation to lease due to your credit findings.” If the reason for not renting is credit, the credit reporting agency will give you the name and address of the credit bureau for you to give to the prospective tenant to obtain a copy of their report for no charge. At no time should you ever provide a copy of the credit report directly to the applicant or go over the details of it with them. They are allowed a copy by law, by the credit agency, but you are not allowed to provide that to them. Below are some other common reasons for rejecting a tenant’s application:
- Not enough rental history or poor rental reference
- Bad credit, evictions, collections
- Criminal conviction, drug manufacture
Although this process may seem mundane, too much effort and time consuming, completing your due diligence in selecting a quality and qualified renter for your investment property is time and money well spent. This screening process can ensure a healthy and successful relationship between you and your future tenant.