5 Reasons to Always Use Rental Applications

Posted by Teresa on June 22, 2010 under Landlord Paperwork and Forms, Landlord Tips, Tenant Credit Checks | icon: commentBe the First to Comment

Tenant Screening Blog.comIf you’re a landlord who is not using written rental applications 100% of the time, here are 5 reasons why you should!

  1. The practice makes everyone more comfortable. Perhaps there was a time when a handshake and a handful of cash were all landlords needed to start a lease. But in this era of liability, lawsuits, and legal obligations, proper paperwork is just a must. And tenants expect to fill out some form of application, too. It puts them at ease that you’re a legitimate business person who will handle the landlord/tenant relationship professionally.
  2. It can protect you from liability. Requiring a rental application from each prospective tenant over age 18, as well as the names of all children who will reside in your rental housing, could reduce your liability for accidents or injuries that occur on the rental property. When your rental application clearly states municipal code limits on number of residents, fire code regulations, and emergency contacts for each tenant, you are more protected in cases of emergency.
  3. It can protect your rental business from a discrimination lawsuit. Collecting the same information from every prospective tenant, then using the same criteria to choose each tenant, ensures that you are within the guidelines for discrimination laws. If you just talk to prospective tenants, and choose one based on whoever is most able to pay the rent, you could be setting yourself up for a lawsuit. A lawyer for a rejected applicant might have a great case, since you’d have no documentation as to why you chose a particular tenant. When you have paperwork like applications and credit reports to back up your decision, you’re covered.
  4. You can gather the information you need to perform a thorough tenant screening. Rental applications should contain name, address, previous addresses, employment information, social security numbers, driver’s license numbers, and all contact information. They should also contain a signature page authorizing you to pull tenant credit reports and tenant criminal background screening reports.
  5. You get a commitment from a prospective tenant. When landlords show apartments and rental houses, they too often let a great prospect get away. Presenting the prospective tenant with an application form and request for security deposit to “hold” the rental unit is a good way to get a commitment. Then, you can do a tenant screening to confirm he or she meets your criteria before signing a lease or rental agreement.

Legal disclaimer:
The contents of this article are intended for general information purposes only, and should not be relied upon as a substitute for obtaining legal advice applicable to your situation.

Limiting Tenant Background Screening to Your State Alone is Risky

Posted by Teresa on June 18, 2010 under Tenant Screening & Background Checks | icon: commentBe the First to Comment

employee-arrestThe U.S. Supreme Court issued a ruling June 1 that could affect landlords whose tenant background checks are limited to the state they reside in.

Essentially, the Court ruled that a convicted sex offender did not have to register in the state he currently lives in because his conviction pre-dated the Sex Offender Registration and Notification Act (SORNA), passed in 2006.

Background to the Decision
The case involved an Alabama man, Thomas Carr, who was arrested for a sex crime in 2003. Upon his release from prison in June 2004, he registered in Alabama as a sex offender. He moved to Indiana 5 months later, in December 2004, where he did not register with proper authorities. Two years later, he was arrested for violating the Sex Offender Registration and Notification Act (SORNA).

Carr’s lawyer argued that his client was not subject to the law because he moved to Indiana well before SORNA was passed by Congress and before the attorney general established a regulation retroactively applying the law to interstate travel by sex offenders.

Supreme Court Overrules Circuit Court Decision
A federal judge ruled that retroactive enforcement of the law did not violate the Constitution. Carr pled guilty and was sentenced to 30 months in prison. On appeal, the Seventh U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals upheld his conviction. The Supreme Court reversed the Circuit Court’s decision, taking a narrower view of SORNA than the Obama administration’s.

According to the Court decision, the law as written by Congress did not authorize retroactive enforcement. Why not? Because Congress used the word “travels,” instead of “traveled,” when referring to offenders who move state to state.

What Does This Mean for Landlords?
If you typically screen tenant criminal backgrounds only the state you live, they could be hiding a criminal past—including for sex crimes. Running a criminal background check on Carr in Indiana, for example, would show no record.

Landlords, Be Safe with Thorough Tenant Screening
Whether landlords agree with the Supreme Court’s decision or not, the prudent solution is to make sure your tenant background screening is as thorough as possible. Peace of mind is priceless!