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What Every Landlord Should Know About Tenant Screening Regulations

May 1, 2019 6:29:39 PM

Owning property and being a landlord comes with some responsibilities and risks. Property must be kept in good repair and tenants afforded privacy. In turn, landlords need to know the people they choose to rent to will pay their rent on time and comply with the terms of the rental or lease agreement. When they leave, they must return the property in substantially the same condition as when they moved in.

As a landlord, in order to prevent problems before they arise, there are several types of screening to do. 

The application

The first step in background checking is to require all prospective tenants to fill out an application. Each adult who will be living in the property should fill out a separate application that includes:

  • A rental history with the names and phone numbers of previous landlords
  • Their current employer
  • Current income
  • Driver’s license number
  • Social Security number
  • Permission to do a background and credit check
  • References

Consumer reports

The Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) allows for a landlord to obtain and use consumer reports to evaluate prospective tenants if their permission is obtained first. Consumer reports include:

  • Credit reports from any credit bureau. The reports provide information concerning the applicant's history of overdue accounts, bankruptcy, foreclosures or evictions.
  • Reports from tenant screening services include a history of evictions as well as references from previous landlords.
  • A report from a tenant screening service that describes the applicant’s rental history
  • A report from a reference checking service that contacts previous landlords or other parties listed on the rental application on behalf of the rental property owner
  • A report from a background check company about an applicant or tenant’s criminal history.

If any adverse action is taken based on information in the reports, such as refusing to accept the applicant as a renter, requiring a greater than usual deposit or requiring a co-signer, the applicant must be given written notice as to why the adverse action is being taken along with a copy of the report upon which the adverse action is based.

For example, if an applicant is refused as a renter due to a history of late payments to creditors, they must be told that this is the reason their application is  bring turned down. The applicant must also be provided with a copy of the credit report from which the negative information was discovered.

Consider professional tenant screening services

Making decisions on what types of reports to request and background checks to conduct can be easier than one may think. Tenant screening tools online will provide tenant screening reports that can save time and energy. Although there is no fool proof system that can guarantee  perfect renters who are always on time with their rent, screening applicants is a good way to note red flags and find the best possible tenants for the rental property.

Topics: tenant screening

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