As a landlord, you want to be sure you’re placing a well-qualified tenant in your property. If you place a bad tenant, you run the risk of losing money on lost rent and potential property damage. But, if you place a good tenant, you can count on consistent rental income and a responsible resident who will help you take care of your investment.
We see a lot of landlords make the mistake of not screening their tenants well. You need to conduct a background check, and you need to do extensive research to make sure you are placing the best possible tenant. This might require an investment of time and resources on your end, but it will have a huge impact on your rental experience.
Application and Rental Criteria
Start with a detailed application that requests all the pertinent information you’ll need to do a rigorous background check. You’ll need identification, a social security number, and the names, phone numbers, and addresses of employers and landlords. Make sure your application has a signature line for your potential tenants, where they will grant you the permission you need to check criminal and credit histories.
Before you provide an application and collect an application fee, give prospective tenants a copy of your written rental criteria. It’s important to have your criteria documented. Not only does it let your applicants know what your standards are for renting the property, it also protects you from fair housing claims. Be consistent and follow your criteria at all times and with every applicant.
Screening Credit and Prior Evictions
It’s not a great idea to rent to tenants who were recently evicted from other properties, so make sure you do a nationwide eviction check as part of your screening process. You’ll also want to check credit. Good tenants have a history of paying bills on time, especially bills related to housing. You don’t want to see any overdue utility bills or debts owed to former landlords or apartment buildings. Some landlords will set a minimum credit score as part of their rental criteria.
Verifying Employment and Income
Make sure prospective tenants can afford to live in your property and pay rent on time every month. Verify the employment information they provided by calling their jobs and asking about their title and how long they have worked there. Ask for proof of income. This is usually a pay stub, but if your applicant is self-employed or a contract worker, you can do the math by looking at tax forms or bank statements. Most property managers and experienced landlords require that tenants earn at least three times the monthly rent.
Contacting Former and Current Landlord References
You’ll want to make good use of landlord references. Current and former landlords can give you the best idea of how a tenant treats rental property. Ask landlords if any damage was left behind and if proper notice was given before the tenants moved out. Find out if rent was paid on time, if there were any conflicts or disputes, and whether they would rent to those tenants again.
These are just a few tenant screening tips that can help you when you’re renting out your Chula Vista investment property. If you have any questions or need any help, please contact us at Encore Realty.