Tenant Screening

A Vacant Unit is Better than the Wrong Tenant

I see this all of the time. Tenant’s not paying their landlords and the landlords having to jump through the hoops of evicting them. Normally, when I get into the conversation with people I find they needed to fill their vacant unit so they lowered their rental standards or they eliminated a credit check all together.

I say this all of the time and people continue to ignore me. I would rather have a unit sitting vacant than to move in an under qualified tenant. Who you move in is one of the most important components of being successful in this business. COVID19 is really showing this. Currently MC Companies is collecting 96% of our rent. Why is this? It is because we were selective in who we moved in. All of our tenants have good credit and no felonies. Most of them are determined to keep their credit in good standing and are working with us on the rent.

Sure there will always be risk, but you can mitigate the risk, and a lot of people don’t because they just want to get their units filled. Below are the six ways you should qualify your tenants before allowing them to rent from you.

 

  1. HEALTHY CREDIT HISTORY

Most landlords’ number one concern about new tenants is non-payment of rent. Many landlords use a rent payment to cover the rental property mortgage. If the tenant doesn’t pay rent on time or at all, this could leave the landlord paying the bill out of their pocket.

If an applicant has no significant warning signs such as apartment related collections, judgments on their credit report, or they have a high credit score, it generally shows they have a history of making payments on time and are likely to continue to do so in the future.

 

  1. CLEAN BACKGROUND CHECK

As a landlord, you should always have the safety of your neighborhood, yourself, and your rental property in mind. In this regard, it’s best to know whether a prospective tenant has any relevant criminal offenses on their record. An applicant with a clean criminal check could be a good indicator that you can trust them with your property and the neighborhood. You’ll want to be sure to perform a criminal check at both the state and national level that includes Most Wanted Databases and the National Sex Offender Public Registry.

 

  1. CLEAN EVICTION HISTORY

Needless to say, a tenant who has been evicted is not a tenant you want to rent to. Although a blank eviction check is a good indicator that the applicant has a positive rental history, you’ll still want to conduct a landlord reference check to make sure the prospective tenant’s behavior at prior residences was up to par because sometimes it takes evictions a few months to post onto a credit report.

 

  1. STABLE EMPLOYMENT HISTORY

To help increase the chances of being paid on time, you’ll want to look for stable employment history. A person who has held the same job for several years and does not have significant gaps in employment could demonstrate that they have a steady job and income. Not only is this a good sign that the tenant will likely pay rent on time, but there’s also a good chance they will renew their lease since they don’t have a history of changing jobs frequently.

 

  1. SUFFICIENT INCOME

While a credit report is an excellent measure of a prospective renter’s financial credit history, it is crucial to verify employment and income for assurance that the prospective tenant has means to pay the rent. A ratio of three times the income to rent is the industry standard, which typically shows that if any unforeseen expenses come up for the applicant, they are more likely to have enough money to pay their rent.

 

  1. POSITIVE LANDLORD REFERENCE CHECKS

A positive landlord reference goes hand-in-hand with your tenant screening reports. Reference checks should verify that the applicant was a good tenant who paid rent on time and left the unit in good condition.

Being a Landlord 101

Being a landlord can be very rewarding, but in order to have a good experience you have to follow some basic rules to do it right and trust me you want to do it right.

  1. Remember it is a business.

    Your tenants are your clients, so while you always want to be friendly and professional you do not want to be their friend. You may have some difficult conversations coming up and a friendship will make them too comfortable and you uncomfortable having those discussions.
  1. Be Clear on Your Policies and Procedures

Who takes care of the landscape? Can they have pets? Do you care if they smoke in the unit? How many cars can they have? Can they park a work van on property? Who handles water, sewer, and trash? These are all policies and procedures that need to be addressed within the lease. Sometimes new landlords forget this and when it comes up later you can’t enforce what isn’t in the lease.

  1. If you put it in your lease agreement be ready to enforce it.

The lease agreement is a contract you both are bound to. You have to perform and enforce the contract. If you do not enforce it it could bite you later in front of a judge.

For example: Even though you were trying to be nice by not charging the late fee, the tenant can then argue they didn’t think they ever would be charged because you waived it the one time. Even though you were being nice, you broke the contract. Even if in their favor the contract was still broken.

So bottom line if you put it in the lease you have to enforce it.

  1. The security deposit.

The number one reason for lawsuits is security deposit issues. Make sure a tenant fills out a move in form with any damages that are there and you take pictures. Then when they move out walk with them and take pictures of any damage. You must have photos of the damage and a bill for the repair. This is what you will need if your tenant does take you to court. You have to get a tenants security deposit back within 30 days, so you have to move fast and have a handyman ready.

Also, make sure part of the deposit is non refundable to cover things like cleaning and if you have carpet then carpet cleaning.

You will want to bring in professional companies to clean at move out.

  1. Run a proper credit and background check

A lot of time new landlords just want to get someone moved in. They seem nice and honest, so you give them the benefit of the doubt. Never do this. You ALWAYS want to run a credit and background check. There are rental screening websites that do this for you. You then charge the potential tenant for the application fee. Never assume or give people the benefit of the doubt. I always say trust, but verify.

  1. Fix what is broken

If you want quality tenants you have to be a quality landlord. If something is broken then fix it quickly. By law, you have 10 days for major repairs. Have a handyman on call who can fix the problems as needed. Also do not let the tenant fix things on their own.

If you follow these simple tips you will be well on your way to being a successful landlord.