7 Tenant Screening Mistakes to Look Out For

tenant screening mistakes

As of the time of writing, property owners or managers have evicted 6,600 tenants in the past week. You can see for yourself how common this problem is and can imagine how much of a hassle it is too. It is much easier to never have rented the home to these problem individuals in the first place.

Below, we have helped you by letting you know about some of the most common tenant screening mistakes. If you are still unsure of how to handle new tenants after this, we would recommend that you investigate what RentSafe has to offer. Otherwise, read on and create a checklist to run through with all new tenants.

1. Asking Illegal Questions

One dangerous mistake that could end up costing you a lot down the road is asking questions that turn out to be illegal. Many of these involve queries related to protected characteristics. Although others have appeared over the years due to more protections.

Be aware that some laws may exist on a local level to protect new tenants. For the best legal advice, you should speak with a lawyer or other legal expert.

Examples of questions you cannot ask include:

  • What is the tenant’s race?
  • What is the tenant’s nationality?
  • What is the religion of the tenant?
  • What is the sex of the tenant?
  • What is the sexual orientation of the tenant?
  • Does the tenant have children?
  • Has the tenant ever been arrested?
  • Has the tenant ever been convicted of a crime?
  • Is the tenant disabled?
  • Does the tenant have any disease?

If you want to ask questions about a person’s past, we would recommend that you stick to:

  • Employment history
  • Tenancy history
  • References
  • Past evictions
  • Past bankruptcies
  • Credit history

2. Failing to Credit Check

By checking someone’s credit report, you can see in general how good they are with paying back any debt that they have. This may be bills, rent, or other things that they owe.

If it turns out that they are bad at paying back any of these, you might have trouble on your hands. So, ensure that you perform this step before bringing them into the home.

3. Not Checking They Are Who They Say They Are

I know it sounds like a Hollywood movie scene, but there is every chance someone might not be who they say that they are. If this happens, then your credit checks and background checks will not tell the truth. Even their references will be for someone wholly different than them.

If a person cannot provide you with the proof that they are who they say that they are, that is a low bar they have failed to get over.

4. Not Running a Background Check

One of the biggest tenant screening mistakes to look out for is forgetting to run a background check. It may turn out that the person seems fine, but then something flags up online that there is a problem that you should know about.

Even if the tenant explains to your their rental and employment history in an application, you should be careful. A background check can bring up things you would not otherwise find. You can then query the prospective tenant on the discrepancy.

It may turn out that any differences are innocent, but it is worth checking to be sure.

5. Not Interviewing the Tenant in Person

If you want to truly know a person who might owe you money, you should perform an interview with them. This will give you a better idea of the type of person they are than an application they can slowly work through.

The kinds of things you will be able to see include:

  • How do they dress for an interview
  • How professional are they
  • How respectful are they towards a prospective landlord
  • Do they smell like cigarette smoke or any other odor

You can also ask more detailed questions than your application allows and start to build a friendly relationship. Such a relationship might help should you ever need to access the home for maintenance or inspection.

In learning how to screen tenants, you can find many more nuanced details about a person.

6. Not Using a Standardized Application

One of the best tips for screening tenants that we have includes creating a standardized application form. RentSafe can help you with this and allows you to send this form to all your prospective tenants.

Standardized applications prevent people from skipping sections. They also allow you to handle them faster, saving everyone time in the long run.

Well-made forms also allow people to access them from any device, including a phone, tablet, or PC. This level of accessibility helps people finish them faster and get them back to you.

7. Refusing to Demand Proof of Income

You might want to trust people when they say that they can pay, but this might not be the wisest move. Some people are hopeful that they can make a payment but do not end up in the situation they want to be in.

Similarly, you might want to ask people for proof of income because their income may come from less-than-legal sources. If this is the case, you will be handling illegally earned money. We are sure that you would prefer not to do that.

Proof of income can come in the form of a written contract, bank statements, or previous pay stubs. Whichever method works best for you or the tenant.

Avoid These Tenant Screening Mistakes

Now that you have read the above, you should be able to avoid the more egregious tenant screening mistakes. If you are still unsure, though, or want to cover yourself, you should check out tenant screening software. With software such as RentSafe, you can ensure that you pass prospective tenants a standard method to confirm their details.

If you want to know more about this, get in contact, and our specialists on the software would be willing to walk you through the process. All you need to do is call us today for a full rundown.

Devin Henry
Devin Henry
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