Landlords: Are You Asking Tenants the Right Questions?

by Chris on September 10, 2018

Different landlords use different methods for screening tenants. For some, choosing the right tenant is as simple as a gut feeling. Others turn to artificial intelligence to conduct more elaborate personality tests to find the ideal renter.

Rules that protect tenant privacy serve as a damper on what information a landlord can use to make a decision about an applicant. Going beyond the approved areas of questioning can lead to income loss.

Regardless of the method a landlord uses to extract information from a rental applicant, the information obtained will only be as useful as the questions presented.

To make the best decisions when screening tenants, a landlord needs to know what to ask:

Can the applicant prove his or her identity?
Does the applicant have sufficient income to pay the rent?
Does the applicant’s situation meet the requirements for the property in terms of occupancy limits or other nonnegotiable restrictions?
Does the applicant have a history of breaching tenancy agreements, namely late rent payments, property damage or eviction?
Does the applicant have a history of disturbances, unsanitary conditions or criminal actions that impact the safety or comfort of others?

Landlords Don’t Need to Beat Around the Bush

The first step in tenant screening is to obtain the answers to the qualifying questions from the completed rental application. If the rental application looks good on the face of it, the next step will be to verify that information. Landlords don’t need to waste time trying to outsmart or psychoanalyze each applicant. Tenant screening reports and references will more readily expose dishonesty.

Tenant Screening is Not a Moving Target

When it comes to tenant screening, it’s best to stick with what we know works. The value in using the rental application to screen each prospective tenant is the ability to hone down the list of questions to only what is necessary to determine if the applicant is qualified. That way, a landlord can push back hard when a tenant refuses to undergo a tenant background check or submits an incomplete application. A landlord does not have to make exceptions for applicants on a case-by-case basis or allow anyone to sidestep the qualification process. That’s not the case if the questions asked are not relevant and straightforward.

A landlord who rejects an applicant may be hard-pressed to defend the action if the tenant background check included any irrelevant or unnecessarily personal information. It is better to stick to qualifying factors. For example, avoid sleuthing for protected information in the applicant’s social media posts. This information is unreliable and can be manipulated or staged to impress a landlord. A credit report cannot.

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 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.

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