Do you screen your tenants before signing a lease with them? Screening tenants is the only way to uncover potential red flags that you can’t see during brief conversations. For example, a credit check can expose an applicant who doesn’t pay their bills on time and will reveal any formal evictions on their record.
Not screening your tenants makes you more likely to accept the wrong tenants who happen to be smooth talkers. Here are five reasons to make tenant screening your top priority.
Screening tenants is easy
If you’re busy with work and your family, you might feel like it’s too hard to screen tenants, and you’d rather take the risk. That’s understandable. However, screening tenants is surprisingly easy. There are a handful of companies that will run all the reports you need.
Rent Spree reviewed the top seven tenant screening companies so you can see what each service provides. For example, some services provide an applicant’s criminal background through TransUnion, while others use their own proprietary source. Two of the options, including Rent Spree, offer reference-checking services.
You don’t need to worry about anything when using a tenant screening service. All you need to do is provide information about an applicant and the reports will be generated for you.
Calling former landlords can give you the hidden side of a story
Applicants probably won’t tell you if they’ve done anything wrong during a former tenancy that didn’t end up in an eviction. However, their former landlords will tell you, especially if they’re still upset.
There are always multiple sides to a story. Unfortunately, sometimes the person being dishonest appears to be more credible. Calling an applicant’s references, including their former landlords, is imperative. You need to know how they treated the property and the landlord and how they moved out. Did they give notice? Did they break the lease? Did they withhold rent or destroy property?
Keep in mind, their former landlord may have been the source of the problem, so use discernment with what you hear. Don’t be afraid to talk to your applicant about the situation to get clarity once you’ve spoken with their former landlord.
Some people routinely trash their rental properties
Habits are hard to break. Some people habitually leave their rental units in shambles after having a huge blowout with their landlord. Other tenants don’t need any instigation – they just break windows, rip doors off the hinges, and set the property on fire on their way out the door.
Most of these people will have a history, either criminal or a bad reputation with their former landlord. If you don’t run checks, you won’t find out the truth.
To decrease your chances of running into a habitually destructive tenant, run background checks to get all of their former addresses. They might give you a fake address for their last residence and have a friend pretend to have been their landlord. With a background check, you can see if the addresses match.
Tenants are unpredictable
You really have no idea what a tenant is capable of doing. There are countless tenant horror stories, and it seems like no landlord can escape the madness.
For example, Bigger Pockets published a list of twelve horror stories that might make you question being a landlord at all. One tenant shot a pistol out of the back window of the apartment just for fun. Another tenant was a genuine hoarder and abandoned the property in the middle of the night.
You might run into a professional tenant
Professional tenants are people who make a career out of fooling landlords and getting out of paying rent – sometimes legally, but often illegally. For example, one tenant horror story recounts a seemingly professional and sophisticated applicant that completely swindled his landlord. The man gave a sob story about needing a place to live immediately because his wife just died. The landlord skipped the screening process and the tenant stopped paying rent after the first month.
The tenant filed for bankruptcy right before signing the lease and knew he wasn’t required to pay rent while his case was in court. He lived in the unit rent-free for 7 months. However, a background check would have revealed the man had done the same thing to other landlords in the past.
Don’t skip tenant screening
No matter how much you want to help someone in a bad situation, never skip tenant screening. It’s not worth the risk to you or your property.