Why Is Tenant Screening Important?
One thing most landlords can agree on is the tedious task of searching for tenants. It’s gruelling, time-consuming and if you’re not a property manager, overwhelming. The idea of ditching tenant screening might seem like a good idea in the heat of the moment but don’t even think about it. There’s a reason tenant screening is a standard industry practice.
Searching for reliable, trustworthy tenants is a short-term undertaking but with long-term returns. Part of a good screening includes a credit check, criminal check, and their previous tenant history. What do these things tell you about a potential tenant?
Running a credit check is important for a multitude of reasons. A credit check reveals a person’s current financial situation and their credit history going back as far as 7-10 years. Do they have a history of paying bills on time or have they had accounts sent to collections? Are they currently in debt and if so, what kind of debt? Have they gone bankrupt before? This kind of information can give you good insight into the type of tenant a person can be. If their debt is connected to a student loan rather than a credit card, it may be easier to overlook or forgive. If they have fully-maxed credit cards, this person may have problems paying rent on time.
Another important element of a background check is looking into their criminal history. A person with a criminal history could put you or your neighbours at risk. Not all criminal convictions carry the same weight, though. Anything in their youth or minor traffic violations may not be dealbreakers but it’s important to see if there’s a pattern to their behaviour. Any serious or lengthy records could be a red flag you shouldn’t ignore. Not only is there a possibility of putting you, other tenants, and neighbours at risk, you put your property at risk, too. No one wants to field calls from angry neighbours or periodically check your property to uncover serious damage.
Have you contacted their previous landlords yet? Then it’s time to pick up the phone and start calling. This is an important step in figuring out whether they’re in the habit of paying their rent on time. Be forgiving, though — we’re all human and if they’ve paid their rent late once or twice, know that no one is perfect. It’s important to specify when asking previous landlords if they have a history of late payments. Also, do they still owe money to them?
This is also the time to uncover any previous evictions. Ask previous landlords but get an eviction report, as well. Evictions do show up on credit reports but only when it’s due to lack of payment. Evictions can happen for other reasons including:
- Tenant judgments for possession and money
- Unlawful detainers
- Tenant judgments for rent
- Failure to pay rent
- Writs and warrants of eviction
When you conduct a thorough tenant screening, you’re taking time early on in your tenant-landlord relationship to uncover what kind of person they are. By discovering their trustworthiness from the start, you can eliminate stress and headaches later on. Good tenants are likely to stay longer when treated well, and keep your investment (i.e. home) in good condition when they do decide to leave.