Is Online Apartment Hunting Bad for Landlords?

by Chris on November 26, 2012

Handy as it is for apartment seekers, the new Internet style of apartment hunting can be bad for landlords.

Take, for instance, the new “apply now” options available on many rental ad hosting sites, including Craigslist.

While these new features are user-friendly for applicants and may attract good tenants,  is an online application system the best bet for landlords?

Many online listing sites offer landlords the ability to bundle property management services — like online rent payment or listings — under the same account. That means fewer passwords to track and may generate landlord discounts. 

However, there are some risks that arise when screening tenants using online rental applications:

Asking rental applicants to fill out a form full of personal information at an early stage of their search may be off-putting, and some may do a shoddy job completing the form, or hold back on pertinent information that is being transmitted online.  If it’s possible to speak with the applicant on the phone prior to linking to an online application, the applicant may be willing to do a more thorough job.

Landlords using a turnkey online service must review the application form itself to determine if it has been thoroughly vetted. Are there questions that need to be added to track the landlord’s own tried and true form?  This problem may be overcome by using systems that allow uploading the landlord’s own form, or provide customization options. 

One of the advantages online applications provide to tenants is the ability to store and resubmit the same form, rather than face the onerous task of completing numerous rental applications. It is important for the landlord to check when the information was submitted, and to verify that the information is still up-to-date.

Unfortunately, by accepting online applications, the landlord may lose out on opportunities to interact directly with the applicant and could miss red flags that might otherwise  reveal a scammer. Tenant screening may be hampered by the inability to prequalify and prescreen applicants on the phone, and the lack of complete information, especially if payments are also to be made online. Landlords must take steps to minimize these risks.

Likewise, landlords will need to verify that the information submitted online came from the person they eventually meet.

Also, it must be clear that the applicant has acknowledged the truthfulness of the information provided in the online application, and has consented to a tenant background check

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.

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