While it’s crucial to keep proper records on all former and current tenants, it’s easy to overlook the need to log rental applicants who were not chosen. This is as important to your tenant screening policy as it is to lowering your landlord liabilities.
The Best Tenant Screening Policy
The best tenant screening strategy is to take notes on what an applicant says during the initial contact. This data is priceless if the individual later attempts to change his or her story, and it’s important to track even if the person never tours the property or completes a rental application.
This initial information can be compared to a credit report and other disclosures obtained during the tenant background check.
Any inconsistencies can flag a tenant who is hiding something, and potentially can save an unsuspecting landlord thousands of dollars.
Avoiding Discrimination Claims
Often, a discrimination claim stems from being passed over for a vacancy. Landlords who don’t track applicants may not remember the person or the situation years later, and that leaves the door open for embellishment.
On the other hand, with documentation, the landlord can adequately defend against a frivolous claim by showing the decision was made without regard to any discriminatory factors.
It’s smart for landlords to periodically review leasing policies, including the tenant screening process, and look for ways to improve. Over time, policies can become lax, or out-of-date.
When it comes to tenant screening, landlords must know if they are asking the right questions. Inappropriate questions increase liability, and prevent the landlord from obtaining all the information needed to properly evaluate the applicants’ qualifications. That will make it more difficult to find a good tenant.
The same questions should be asked uniformly of all applicants, so you can compare apples to apples. Questions should be focused on the qualifications of the tenant — ability to pay, to care for the property, and to get along without disturbances.
If you find a question seems awkward with some applicants and not with others, chances are you are going down the wrong path.
Typically, records should be kept for three years, but talk to your attorney about the rules that might apply in your area. In some cases, there may be local laws that place restrictions on what information you are allowed to copy and store.
It is also important to remember that landlords have a duty to protect private information obtained from tenants and rental applicants, so be sure to do what is necessary to prevent unintended disclosure when storing files.
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 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.