If you are renting your home, you want to attract the best tenants. To attract the best tenants, you need to make your rental stand out among other units in the sea of available housing. No landlord wants to find themselves in a position of having to offer their unit to a less than desirable tenant because they simply did not get enough high value tenants applying.
- Don’t overcharge for screening your tenant. Ideally, you won’t charge them more than it costs you. In fact, in some states this is the law. Applying for housing costs renters a fortune, especially in competitive markets. Being reasonably priced during this time will ensure you have a variety of applicants to choose from for your next tenancy. Charging a reasonable fee for the application also lets your tenants know that you will be a reasonable landlord. Online tenant screening companies like E-Renter.com can provide you with the ability to push payment for the tenant screening report to your tenant – that way, your tenant is assured they are paying only for the cost of the screening.
- Consider bundling maintenance services with the rental price. For example, a lawn service or even a house-cleaning service that comes every other week can often cost less than $100/mo., but can provide your renters with a huge sense of relief that these things will be taken care of during their time in the house. You get the added benefit of knowing your property will be kept in top form, too.
- Gather your OWN references and get a background check on YOURSELF. During the latest economic downturn, many tenants faced surprised foreclosures because their landlords were unable to pay their mortgages. Many tenants have also previously had bad experiences with landlords who unfairly hassled them about returning security deposits, invaded their privacy, failed to maintain the unit, etc. Offering them references from recent renters who had a good experience with you, and including a recent background check on yourself that shows no bankruptcies, liens, or judgments, is a great way of showing them that you understand that renting is a two-way street of trust – you need to be able to trust them, and they need to be able to trust you. You can use a background check service like BackgroundReport.com to obtain a background check, and let tenants know they can call in to verify the report is valid.
Out of any 10 lease applications, how many contain lies, omissions or truth-stretching? Unfortunately, many will. That’s why landlords and property managers can’t assume every applicant fills out an application truthfully. If you’re lucky, the majority will be hard-working, honest people who are simply looking for a great place to live. But can you count on every applicant to tell the truth? And how can you tell if they’re not?
Verify, verify, verify! It’s up to you to do the digging and reveal the truth.
The best way is to do that is through a thorough background check, which can reveal the following information:
- Whether the applicant has ever used another name.
- If the Social Security Number listed is valid.
- Whether the applicant has declared bankruptcy, and when and where it was filed.
- Any liens or judgments against the applicant.
- Whether the previous addresses listed are accurate.
- Any addresses the applicant omitted.
- Whether the applicant is listed as a registered sex offender.
- Any flags on any of the addresses listed by the applicant.
What’s more, a background check can also tell you whether you can be confident in accepting the applicant’s check.
Of course, you’ll need to do some verification on your own, including contacting and talking to the applicant’s previous landlords and current employer. Be sure to verify that you’re actually talking to the property owner and a representative of the employer. Look up names and phone numbers online, and compare them to what the applicant provided.
We all know the importance of tenant screening. It provides benefits to you as well as to your other tenants, including:
- Peace of mind
- Quality tenants
- Fewer evictions
While a tenant credit check will tell you whether an applicant meets your qualifications, and a tenant background check will inform you about an applicant’s criminal history, you should do a little more digging before signing that lease.
Every landlord should look at every prospective tenant’s current employment, employment history and rental history. Here are a few tips:
- Call the tenant’s current landlord, as well as at least one previous landlord. More is better. The current landlord might just be anxious to get rid of the tenant, so don’t accept a glowing report as the truth. But, if two or three previous landlords—who have nothing to lose—also say great things, you might have a gem of a tenant! On the contrary, if previous landlords say he was a problem tenant, but the current landlord says he’s great, it’s possible that he cleaned up his act, but can you be sure?
- Ask whether the applicant was current on rent, took care of the property, were courteous to the landlord and fellow tenants, and followed the rules of the lease.
- Check on the applicant’s current employment situation. Make sure you are talking to someone at the company who is authorized to verify employment. Often, applicants will provide the phone number to a friend or co-worker who is coached to give the right answers.
- Check to see if the actually applicant worked at the previous jobs listed on the application. Unless you check it out, you’ll never know if she has decided to stretch the truth or make up a job she never actually held.
When screening tenants, do a little digging of your own to provide a complete picture of each prospect. You’ll make a more informed decision about whom to accept as your new tenants!
Okay, that’s a trick question. Why? Because your dream applicant shouldn’t “look like” anything in particular: not male, female, black, white, Asian, Catholic, Muslim, American, Russian or any other pre-determined profile. Using a prospective tenant’s race, color, religion, country of origin, gender, family status or disability to either approve or reject him or her for a lease is against the law, after all.
But there are several qualities that most landlords would probably agree make for a dream applicant:
- She can afford the rent: Smart tenants know how much of their take-home salary should go to their rent, utilities, car payment and other bills each month. Dream tenants only apply for rental housing they can afford.
- He has stable employment: A dream applicant is proud to present his employment history, because it shows he’s stable enough to hold down a job for longer than a month.
- She doesn’t balk at the tenant screening process: These days, smart tenants know that they will probably undergo tenant screening. And they appreciate the fact that you care enough about who lives in your rental property to require background checks for all tenants.
- He has a good credit history: The dream tenant has never been evicted, pays his bills on time and lives within his means. He’s not overextended on credit, is not going to have his car repossessed, and will most likely pay his rent on time each month. And, if his credit history is less than stellar, he has a co-signer lined up.
- She has great references: When you call a dream applicant’s former landlords and personal references, they all say good things. And they’re not her friends, co-workers or parents who are pretending to be former landlords!
Remember not to judge a prospective tenant by anything other than their ability to pay the rent and security deposit, and pass a background and credit check. And if you’re lucky, you’ll land a dream applicant who becomes a dream tenant!
Start your tenant relationship off right by knowing who you’re leasing to. Protect your rental property and assets with tenant background checks. Proper tenant screening will ensure you are leasing to the best possible tenants.
Being a landlord isn’t easy. It’s a challenging way to make a living or earn extra money. However, investing in real estate and leasing property can be quite rewarding when done right. Avoiding these common landlord errors can keep you out of legal trouble, and make things a little easier.
Using the same old lease, or someone else’s lease: Landlords who’ve been leasing properties for a long time often use the same lease for decades. And those who are new at it, often download a lease agreement off the Internet, or borrow one from a friend. It’s true that most leases contain common language, but it’s best to have yours customized for your property, your circumstances and your preferences. It could be well worth it to sit down with a landlord-tenant lawyer and have your lease reviewed.
Forgetting that time equals money: You might not mind doing repairs, cutting the grass or performing maintenance at your rental properties. If you’re an expert at these things, it could be cost-effective to do it yourself. However, if your work is sub-par, it takes longer than it should or requires follow-up repairs, you are probably wasting your time—and losing money. Hire experts to do the things you can’t do, and focus on what you do well. Fill empty units, update your website or take classes to make yourself a better businessperson.
Breaking anti-discrimination laws: You cannot refuse to rent to a prospective tenant based on race, national origin, religion, familial status, color, gender or disability. Landlords are not allowed to ask prospective tenants questions that refer to these things, either.
Basing acceptance of a tenant on anything other than cold, hard facts: Look at an applicant’s previous rental history, current and former employment, income, and credit worthiness. Run a background check to weed out those with criminal records. But don’t make decisions based on how a tenant applicant looks or dresses, or the car he or she drives.
Failing to follow the same procedures with every applicant: You could be accused of discrimination if you don’t require each applicant to follow the same process.
Making decisions based on emotion: Every experienced landlord has regretted allowing a tenant to be late on rent “just this once,” or to letting a tenant move in without paying a security deposit up front because they promised to pay “next month.” Well, “just this once” is never once and “next month” never comes. It’s difficult to be tough, but landlording is a tough business. If you want to succeed, you’ve got to take a hard stance.
Landlords typically include language in the lease that prohibits subleasing without permission. But what exactly is subleasing, when and why would a tenant want to do it, and how should landlords proceed?
Subleasing is different from transferring a lease to another party. In the latter situation, another tenant takes over a current lease and the original tenant is absolved of any responsibility for its terms.
In subletting, the subtenant is granted the rights contained in a sublease, but the original tenant is still responsible for the terms of the original lease. In essence, the subtenant is renting from the original tenant, who is still bound by the contract with the landlord. For example, a subtenant is allowed to live in the unit but must pay rent. If they do not, the original tenant is still liable for the missed rent.
Tenants might be interested in subleasing if they are going away for an extended length of time, but wish to return to their apartment. It wouldn’t make sense to go to the trouble of subleasing for a trip of a few weeks. But if your tenant were planning on traveling through Europe or South America for three months, subleasing is a way to cover the rent without having to break the lease and start over when they return.
Tenants who are interested in subleasing may ask permission, even if the lease states you do not allow it. Remember, it’s always up to the landlord whether or not to allow the sublease. If you decide to allow a tenant to sublease your property, follow these tips for a more successful outcome:
- Write up a Consent to Sublease agreement between yourself or your company and the two parties.
- Include elements such as effective date, the tenant and subtenant’s names, the property address, and the monthly rent.
- Be sure to state that the tenant is still responsible for his or her duties under the original lease.
- If you decide to allow subleases, be sure to create a policy. Don’t let one tenant sublease, and forbid another from subleasing. This could lead to charges of discrimination.
- Be sure your tenant also has a sublease agreement with the subtenant. This is a different document from your Consent to Sublease agreement, and covers the legalities between those two parties. If expectations are not made clear, you could find yourself stuck in the middle of their disagreements.
- Keep in mind that if the subtenant damages the unit, leaves before the lease expires or breaks any other condition of the lease, you may hold the original tenant responsible. He or she can will have to get satisfaction from the subtenant.
- Just as you screen all your prospective tenants before signing a lease, you should make it clear that any subtenants will also be required to undergo tenant screening.
Subleasing can be a hassle, but if you have good tenants whom you want to keep, allowing them to sublet while they’re away can make sense. Remember, it’s completely up to you!
Start your tenant relationship off right by knowing who you’re leasing to. Protect your rental property and assets with tenant background checks. Proper tenant screening will ensure you are leasing to the best possible tenants.
landlords have faced one of these situations:
- You’re doing a routine maintenance inspection and discover an occupant in the rental whom you’ve never seen before. You ask who he is and he replies, “Oh, I live here.”
- You sign a lease with one tenant. A few months in, she mentions that the rent will be late because her roommate hasn’t paid her share yet. Roommate?
- You live upstairs, your tenant lives downstairs. You notice he hasn’t been around lately, but someone else is clearly staying in the apartment. You ask questions and find out your tenant is away for three months, but he sublet the place to a friend.
- Tenants who live next to one of your rental units call and complain about the three cars that are taking up all the available parking. You reply that only two people live in the unit, but they assure you that three people have been seen regularly coming in and out.
What’s going on? Most likely, your tenant has brought in a roommate or sublet part or all of your rental property to an additional person. If your lease agreement states that no subletting is allowed without your authorization, then the tenant is in violation of the terms of the lease.
The problem with subletting, or adding roommates without your knowledge, is that you have no idea who they are, where the work, if they’ve ever been evicted or convicted of a crime, or if their credit history meets your requirements. Without a chance to perform due diligence, including tenant screening and credit checks—the same tenant screening you do on all prospective tenants—you are at risk of liability for the actions of an unknown person. Plus, your property and business are at risk.
Why would tenants deliberately violate the terms of a lease?
- Maybe they don’t thoroughly read the lease, or forgot what the lease said.
- They may think you won’t catch them in the act, as long as they pay their rent on time.
- Perhaps they think the lease terms don’t actually apply to them.
- Or they simply cannot afford their apartment or house without a roommate.
In any of these cases, you likely have cause to send a cure or quit notice. Of course, check your local and state laws concerning eviction notices. You may want to send a reminder to all your tenants that subletting or adding roommates without your authorization is strictly prohibited. If they want roommates, they must undergo the same application and tenant screening process as everyone else. Explain that this is for the safety of all residents. Keep in mind that treating one group of people differently than others could put you at risk of discrimination charges, so make sure the same rules apply to all of your tenants. Finally, notify tenants that violations are grounds for eviction.
If you do agree to a sublease situation, be sure to put everything in writing. A sublease agreement should be signed by all parties and place in your tenant’s file.
Most experienced landlords will tell you that tenant screening is the most important aspect of renting property. Failing to screen prospective tenants causes more problems than just about anything else. After all, each tenant is a potential liability to a landlord.
Thoroughly checking up on tenants’ identification, credit history, criminal background, work history and previous rental situations can give you a clear picture of the tenant you are about to trust to live with your property and among your other tenants.
Here are some basic tenant screening tips from real landlords:
- Don’t skip the tenant screening process, no matter how nice or trustworthy a prospective tenant seems.
- Treating each applicant equally will help you stay within the law. This is another good reason to screen every tenant.
- Look at credit history, criminal history, evictions, judgments, bankruptcies and sex offender status.
- Fake IDs are easy to buy or make, so check the applicant’s Social Security Number and identity to be sure they are who they say they are.
- If the applicant is local, drive by their current address to see how they live. Is there a beater car parked in the yard? Garbage strewn about? Or is it neat and clean? How it looks is a good indicator of how they will treat your property.
- Don’t judge a prospective tenant by his or her clothing, car or jewelry. A hard working, honest tenant could be dressed in dirty work clothes, while a flashy car and fancy watch could indicate someone who has plenty of money, or is simply living above his or her means.
- Beware of tenants who want to move in fast and have plenty of cash to cover rent and the security deposit. Take your time and conduct your screening process.
- Talk to previous landlords. If a tenant specifically asks you not to contact the current landlord, find out why, and talk to former landlords. Conduct the rest of your screening process and if the tenant is approved, let him or her know, and then contact the current landlord.
- Don’t base your entire approval on the landlord’s reference. Some will be anxious to get rid of a bad tenant (and give a good reference). Others will be honest.
- Take notice if the prospective tenant is late for appointments without apology or is unhappy about paying an application or screening fee.
- Ask why they’re moving.
Using these tips, along with a professional tenant screening service, can help insure that you lease only to qualified tenants. Good luck!
No matter if you’re a long-time landlord or new to the business, you’ll likely encounter a wide mix of tenants. Some will be easier to deal with than others. They pay their rent on time, follow your rules and cause no problems. Other tenants can only be described as problem tenants. Most landlords would probably agree that if they could turn back the clock, they would not have agreed to lease to these tenants in the first place.
Trouble is, you can’t always know if a tenant will be a problem. Experienced landlords know that even those with good jobs, good credit scores and sparkling references can later turn out to be duds—or worse. But there are warning signs that every landlord should know.
Five Warning Signs of Problem Tenants
- They gripe about the application fee. Good tenants realize that running background checks and tenant credit checks, calling references and processing paperwork take time and money. They pay the application fee without complaint. A lease applicant who can’t pay the fee, or complains about it, is a red flag.
- They ask for more time to pay the first month’s rent and security deposit. Sure, it can be tough to come up with that much money at once. But remember, you’re running a business, not a charity. If a tenant cannot pay all of the rent and security deposit up front, you may want to pass on him or her and wait for someone who can. It’s a matter of choice. Let another landlord deal with it.
- They are new at their job. This isn’t always a bad thing. Plenty of people switch jobs because they’re offered better positions that pay more, and they can afford more rent. But if a prospective tenant has had several jobs in the past two or three years, the new job might not last for long. And soon, the excuses for paying rent late will begin.
- They mention relationship problems. Keep in mind that according to the Fair Housing Act, landlords may not discriminate against applicants based on marital status. It’s illegal to refuse to rent to a divorced person, a single person or a married person because of their status alone. But if an applicant mentions boyfriend or girlfriend problems, or that he or she is trying to get away from someone, consider these red flags. Trouble typically follows people around. If you don’t want an upset estranged husband or troubled ex-girlfriend on your hands, pass on this tenant.
- They ask too many questions. There’s a fine line between having a healthy interest in your rental property and showing warning signs of being a problem tenant. Be on alert if a prospective tenant asks about things like:
- The racial makeup of your building or the neighborhood.
- Exactly what the electric, sewer or gas bills will be.
- How to file complaints or repair requests.
- Where they can smoke (if you have a non-smoking property).
- How often you’ll be inspecting the property, and how much warning you’ll be giving.
- The type of questions, the number of them, or the way they are asked can tell you a great deal about the person who’s applying to live in your property.
As a landlord, you get to decide with whom you enter into a lease agreement. Keep your eyes and ears open, trust your gut instinct and always verify everything a prospective tenant tells you.
No matter how competitive your rents are, you need to protect your rental property and assets with tenant background checks. Proper tenant screening will ensure you are leasing to the best possible tenants.
Landlords, have you ever been the victim of a scam pulled off by a “professional tenant?” There are always a few lurking around in the shadows. We’ve heard a few stories lately about landlords who have suffered losses because they unknowingly fell victim to a pro.
Jeff is a new landlord who recently arranged with a couple to lease a rental unit he owns. They wrote a check for the first month’s rent and security deposit, which Jeff deposited into his account. A week later, they cancelled the lease because their employer was transferring them out of state. They asked for a refund. Jeff refunded the full amount, only to discover the original check was written on a non-existent account. It was counterfeit. The couple flew the coop and Jeff is out nearly $1300.
Banks don’t typically place holds on every check, so Jeff assumed it had cleared the bank with no problem.
One way to avoid this scam: Ask for the first month’s rent and security deposit in cash. That would have sent these two packing.
A better solution: Run a thorough tenant screening on every applicant. Check their credit history and criminal history. Call previous landlords and their current employer. Remember: scammers do their best work when no questions are asked.
Another story is about a famous scam where the tenant moves into an apartment and proceeds to trash the place. Or he just stops paying rent. He then waits for the eviction notice or sues the landlord for unsafe housing. He’s an expert at stretching out the judicial process though filing complaints, asking for judge recusals and causing postponements. In the meantime, landlords are racking up massive attorney’s fees, he’s living rent-free for months or years, and usually the court decides in his favor.
The only way to avoid this type of tenant scam is through tenant screening. One of the victims of this scammer admitted she didn’t check with any of his previous landlords before renting him an apartment.
Protect yourself, your business and your wallet by keeping your guard up, trusting no one you don’t know, and running a tenant background check on every prospective tenant.