The prequalification process is a crucial step in screening tenants. By asking a few questions on that first phone call, landlords can weed out unqualified renters before wasting time showing a unit to someone who won’t be living there.
Prequalification should be structured so landlords obtain the information they need — without asking for information they are not entitled to.
These are some common mistakes to avoid when prequalifying prospective tenants:
1. The call or meeting is a professional interaction, not a personal one. Avoid the chit-chat. Don’t ask the usual get-to-know-you questions like, “Where are you from?” Discrimination rules apply to verbal conversations, so landlords cannot ask the applicant anything over the phone or in person that they can’t ask on a rental application.
2. Don’t forget to ask the prospect when they are planning to move. This eliminates showings to people who may be pondering a move, but not planning to move anytime soon. This also opens a window into the applicant’s motives and reveals if the prospect is planning to leave without giving notice to their current landlord. That could be a sign of trouble.
3. Never tell someone that the unit is not available when it is. It is impossible to make judgments about an applicant’s qualifications based on the sound of their voice. Rejecting an individual because of an accent or because they sound feminine, for example, is illegal. This dubious strategy also causes landlords to turn away their best prospects.
Landlords sometimes assume that the voice on the other end of the line is a prospective tenant, when it could be an investigator checking the landlord’s record on discrimination. If the unit suddenly is available when the next tester calls, the landlord won’t be able to deny discrimination.
4. Don’t up the rent if the ad sparks a high response. The number of calls received from the ad can be deceiving. The same person or same family may have called more than once. And just because there are a lot of messages doesn’t mean all of those prospects are qualified. In fact, over-market rentals attract more desperate, unqualified renters than properties priced just below market. The best renters won’t play that game.
5. Don’t make applicants wait for a return call. Resist the temptation to give it a few days to see what there is to choose from. That list will be changing by the hour. Save the frustration of chasing down applicants who have moved on.
6. The last stage of the prequalification process is to see a photo ID that confirms the person’s identity. Ideally, this should be done off-site, in the event the names don’t match. Regardless, it is a step that never should be skipped.
By making the effort to prequalify applicants, a landlord can focus their energy where it belongs — on screening the best prospect.
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 is 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.