Blog & Resources for Landlords

Common Tenant Background Check Mistakes?

Mar 26, 2020 10:00:00 AM

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What is the one challenge every landlord faces, whether renting one property or a hundred? Finding a suitable renter – a tenant background check is a large part of that process. Property management is a business, and just like any business, there is a right and a wrong way to tackle certain tasks. Consider some common mistakes landlords make when they screen potential renters.

Going with Gut Instinct 

No matter how much you like or trust an applicant, do a full background check. Landlords cannot predict who will be a slow payer or what tenant might skip out on a lease. History is the only way to get a clear picture of a tenant’s potential - good and bad, so don’t just go with your gut, do a full rental history check.

Not Defining Your Rental Criteria

Know what you want in a renter before screening applicants. This keeps you from focusing on the wrong criteria and limiting your options. Concentrate on details that relates to the applicant's ability to pay the rent and maintain the property.

Settling for an Incomplete Tenant Screening

There are many different levels of background checks. Successful landlords understand there is more to an applicant than just credit. Proper tenant screening services should include:

  • Credit check
  • Previous address history
  • Eviction history
  • Criminal record checks
  • Tenant score
  • Sex offender registry search
  • Terrorist alert

Avoid limiting your tenant background check to a local or statewide search. Landlords should ask for national searches for judgments, evictions and criminal records. Trying to save money by doing sub par tenant screenings will put you at risk for an even bigger financial loss. A vacancy does cost money, but not as much as a bad tenant.

Hiding the Background Check

Make it clear that a background check is part of the screening process right from the beginning. This may weed out some bad prospects before you waste any time or money on them.

Start the background check in the first phase of the application. Finding a tenant is a process of elimination. If you wait too long to do the check, you may lose other potential applicants. Don’t wait until you have the lease in hand to run rental history reports or do a full tenant screening.

Failing to Call the Most Recent Landlord

This is the reference that matters the most. If the applicant is moving because of nonpayment, that information will not be available from any rental history reports. That is a detail you will only get by calling the current property manager.

This is where using a third party tenant screening service comes in handy. Landlords do not have to worry about whether applicants are honest about their previous addresses or list their current landlord. Property managers can be confident about the information they have and make smart leasing choices. With all the data right at your finger tips, you are able to fill a vacancy quickly.

In a perfect world, every applicant would be reliable and honest, but that is not usually the case. Landlords must learn how to filter out the risky candidates and focus on the solid prospects.

Hiring a tenant screening service will eliminate some of the guesswork for property managers and owners. You still need a clear understanding of what to do and what not to do as part of the screening process, however.

Topics: real estate, tenant screening, background check

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