Finding a respectable, trustworthy tenant for a rental property is not an easy feat. As a landlord, we are vigilant in researching the backgrounds of our prospective applicants. With evolving technology, completing background and credit checks are so easily accessible there is no excuse for any landlord not to screen tenants before move in. The Stone Age of verifying a resident’s identity is long gone. We use a tenant screening company as a supplemental reference guide. They investigate a persons credit, criminal, rental history and more. Sometimes a credit check doesn’t tell you everything. This supplement can make sure any criminal background that may have been pending or not obvious does not fall through the cracks. These references go back further than the resident’s rental history, they cross reference all registered mailing addresses associated with the persons credit file.
As a management company, we have been around through the ups and downs of the market and watched many types of applicants walk through our doors. We have seen applicant’s belatedly lie on applications, give false references and even give a fake phone number for a fake employer. As licensed Realtors®, we have access to what most property managers don’t; tax records and title information. We use these tools to complete cross-references on applications as well.
We also conduct an online search on each tenant. We look specifically for social networking profiles, blogs and websites in the tenant’s name. If we find any public information, we review it to confirm any items on the application. As well as our supplemental tenant screening company preforming a background check, we also conduct your own background check by contacting the local police department and court system where the tenant currently resides to find information about past arrests, criminal charges and other activities. This does take substantially more time but is well worth the investigation.
Verifying each prospective tenant’s income and employment is essential. Not just determining if they are employed, but that they can afford they rent payment each month. We ask the tenant for a copy of his last three pay stubs, and last Form W-2 or 1099 to determine how much income they earn and how often they receive pay. We contact the tenant’s current employer to verify his employment and how long he has worked there. We then review what lines of credit are open and revolving and what the debt to income ratio is to determine financial ability. We look for income to be three times the monthly rent. We request each tenant give three personal references. We contact them and conduct a short telephone interview with each reference and ask questions about the tenant’s personality, character and reliability.
Before finalizing our approval of an applicant we make sure to invite each prospective tenant to an in-person interview. Sometimes this is done under the guise of a property tour, which may give you even more insight into each applicant’s background. During the tour/interview, we ask questions about why the tenant wants to move, why they chose your property and why she wants to move in.
The bottom line is, while talking to previous landlords is much encouraged, it should not be depended on as the primary or the only system utilized to verify information about a prospective resident. By combining tools, we have a comprehensive verification of a tenant’s background. This is just another way we provide a extra layer of protection to our clients.