3 Ways to Evaluate an Applicant’s Rental History

by Chris on September 24, 2012

Just as checking an applicant’s credit history is necessary to determine credit-worthiness, evaluating a tenant’s past rental history is crucial for establishing tenant-worthiness. Has this applicant left behind a trail of distressed landlords? Will the applicant repeat the pattern?

Evaluating rental history requires a completed rental application. Bad tenants may attempt to camouflage their flaws by omitting information, or glossing over the bumpy patches. Often, it’s what appears between the lines that can provide the best clues of a bad rental history. 

Consider the Timing

Is the rental applicant trying to move at a strange time — a few months before the end of a one-year lease, for example.  This may signal an attempt to secure a new home before they burn the current landlord.  It could be the result of a life change, like losing a job. Being out of sync on timing can be a sign that this applicant is not respecting their lease agreement. There is more information to discover through further due diligence.

It Doesn’t Add Up

The rental application should request a rental history going back several years. Look closely at those dates.  Do they add up?  Are there gaps where the tenant’s whereabouts are unknown. This could be an attempt to hide previous financial problems, an eviction, or even criminal history. Ask the applicant to explain the discrepancy, then look for ways to verify that information.

Let’s Keep It Between Us

The applicant should be forthcoming with names and numbers of previous landlords — that is, if they have nothing to hide.  Having an applicant ask that you not contact the current or past landlords, because it would “hurt their feelings”,  cause them to end the tenancy early or other similar excuses is a red flag.  This applicant must be investigated further.

Omitting the previous landlord information on the rental application also is a bad sign. So is providing only sketchy information. Claiming that there was a problem with the previous landlord may be a poor excuse. Gauging your response to such excuses based on the rental history as a whole helps to determine if there was a legitimate problem, or whether there’s an emerging pattern of a problem tenant. Be sure to listen to both sides of the story.

Of course, providing false information about previous landlords is a deal-breaker.

Speaking with previous landlords to verify the information that the applicant presents is the next crucial step in determining whether a rental applicant is a good fit for your rental property.

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).

Click Here to Receive Landlord Credit Reports.

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.


{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Howard October 2, 2012 at 5:20 am

This is great advice, although the Application to Rent form provided in your collection of forms only provides enough space for two past addresses. Would it be possible to revise the forms to specifiy we’re looking for “x” number of years past rental history (maybe 5?) and to use the back of the form if there is not enough space?

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