Recent reports from landlords detail a tenant who abandoned the property and turned off the heat, causing all the pipes to burst, a tenant who stole all the furnishing from a furnished apartment, and tenants who didn’t pay rent for months. Wouldn’t you like to avoid these losses?
Take a minute to review this list of tenant screening mistakes so you can catch bad tenants before they have a chance to become your landlord nightmare story:
1. Ignoring the Consequences of a Bad Tenant
Don’t make the mistake of thinking a bad tenant can be booted at the first sign of trouble. It may take months to remove a tenant who isn’t paying rent or is causing property damage. Don’t allow an applicant to talk you out of running a tenant background check.
2. No Rental Application
The rental application provides consent for a tenant background check, including running a credit report and speaking with previous landlord references. It also requires applicants to swear an oath that the information provided is accurate and complete, creating incentive to tell the truth.
3. No Prequalifying Questions
Come one, come all is a bad strategy. Cast a wide net and you’ll wind up with 20 applicants. But that’s 20 times the work and 20 times the risk. Juggling too many applicants makes it more difficult to flag a fraudster. Stick to applicants who at least appear qualified — sufficient income, available to move — and eliminate unqualified prospects as early as possible.
4. No Photo ID
Few people would invite a stranger into their homes simply because that person knocked on the door. The same is true of renting to an applicant without first verifying that person’s identity.
5. Not Knowing When a Tenant is Qualified
Some landlords focus on what the tenant looks like rather than what qualifications matter. Credit-worthiness and tenant-worthiness are overlooked, while charming fraudsters make their way into the property.
6. Not Requiring Proof of Income
This is one item that a landlord cannot take the applicant’s word on. Just ask the landlord who later found out the tenant didn’t actually work at the plant nearby, or the one whose applicant wasn’t actually a nurse.
7. Failing to Verify the Rental Application
Do the dates of previous addresses ring true, or was the tenant evicted and doesn’t want you to know? You won’t find the answer unless you independently verify the information. Make some calls. Chances are you’ll gain peace of mind. Otherwise, you’ll save yourself a lot of trouble down the road.
8. No Previous Landlord References
Landlord nightmare stories are shocking — property damage in the tens of thousands, missing furniture and appliances, criminal activity — but it’s equally shocking to hear that many landlords do not speak to the previous landlord first before leasing a property. Imagine the frustration you would feel if you were ripped off, but no one ever calls to get a reference on that applicant.
9. Not Running Tenant Screening Reports
The key to a tenant background check is cross-referencing the information obtained from the prequalification interview, the rental application, supplemental documentation, and the tenant credit check. Bad tenants seldom admit to their deeds. Landlords need to connect the dots. Are there time gaps in the rental history? Does the credit report contradict the rental application? Is there something that doesn’t add up?
Violating the Human Rights Code is a costly and completely preventable mistake. What’s more, discriminating against a group of people makes no sense from a business perspective. There is no demographic that is safer than another, only tenants who are qualified and those who are not qualified. So, why take the risk?
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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.