While it’s true that none of us can survive in today’s world without our computers or phones to keep us connected, there are some things that landlords should never accomplished solely online:
1. Approving a tenant. There are some new automated services out there that promise to deliver a qualified tenant. However, qualifying and screening tenants exclusively online is too risky. Landlords must meet with rental applicants face-to-face in order to verify the person’s identity with a photo ID.
A rental application form should not be provided to an applicant until the individual’s identity has been verified in person. Otherwise, there is not way of knowing if the tenant screening reports match the applicant. The online process may seem quick, but evicting a fraudulent tenant could take months.
Don’t use a rental application form that you find online or one that is provided by a listing service without first reviewing the application and making sure it meets your standards. Any rental application must include a declaration that provides consent for a tenant background check and a promise that the information is true and complete.
2. Providing a tour. Don’t provide access to a rental property through a lockbox or password to an applicant that you have haven’t met.
Sure, it’s tempting to streamline the process and property tours are a pain — especially if you have to do it several times in a row. But, the only way to find the right tenants is to prequalify applicants prior to providing a tour. There is no point in having unqualified applicants walk through the property.
Landlords can prevent crime at the vacant unit by personally verifying the identity of those touring the property.
Allowing applicants to tour alone destroys an opportunity to gain valuable insights about the applicant that could have been useful in tenant screening.
3. Executing the lease. When you are dealing with multiple tenants and several leases a month, you look for ways to automate the process. Yet, getting a signed lease back from a tenant is more than ticking a box on a checklist. A lease is all about compliance.
Don’t use lease forms found online without first modifying the agreement so it meshes with local rental laws. In addition, have the final product reviewed by a local landlord attorney.
Going through that process helps to solidify the reality that the lease is a legal document. While it is good for an incoming tenant to receive a copy of the lease in advance, you don’t want to send it out to just any applicant — that can create misunderstandings, especially if the landlord has signed it.
Create some formality around the lease signing. Conducting this business in person allows everyone to have a copy with original signatures. It also provides an opportunity to emphasize portions of the lease that are of particular importance, and to answer any questions the tenants may have at that time.
To enforce the lease, a landlord may have to prove that the tenant’s signature is genuine. That’s going to be more difficult if the entire leasing process was conducted online.
Once the landlord-tenant relationship is established, and all parties have discussed the lease provisions, it’s appropriate to send or receive documents digitally. Just make sure there is a “paper” trail, like an email message that reads, “Here is the lease we discussed. Please review it, and if you are prepared to sign it, let’s set a time to meet in my office.”
This post is provided by Tenant Verification Service, Inc., helping landlords reduce the risks of renting with fraud prevention tools that include Tenant Screening, Tenant Background Checks, (U.S. and Canada), as well as Criminal Background Checks, and Eviction Reports (U.S. only).
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Disclaimer: The information provided in this post in not intended to be construed as legal advice, nor should it be considered a substitute for obtaining individual legal counsel or consulting your local, state, federal or provincial tenancy laws.