Don’t Miss an Important Component to Screening New Tenants!
Posted by Bill Gray on October 7, 2009
[tweetmeme source=”your_twitter_name” only_single=false http://www.URL.com%5DA vital part of tenant screening requires more than learning about applicants, their employment and credit history—it’s learning everything you can about their previous rental history. Yes, former landlords who have rented to this tenant before have a wealth of information which should be weighed carefully before you approve an application.
Think about it. For six months or six years, former landlords have received or not received payments from your applicant. They know how the tenant left the property and about any complaints made when they leased it. Their file and recollection can provide you with more insight than you’ll find by calling employers or ordering a credit report.
Start with the end in mind and weed out any applicants who might not treat your property with a gentle, kind, and caring hand. Was their former landlord impressed with the condition and cleanliness of the property when the tenant moved out? Or were they overwhelmed and disappointed with the lack of attention and personal consideration they showed by leaving the unit a mess?
Screening former landlords can reveal much more, though, and the information you gain is worthy of your time. Does the tenant have a history of short-term housing, indicating problems with payment or other terms of the lease? Was the tenant a nuisance to other tenants? Did the tenant honestly disclose past information to previous landlords, and did that information hold true?
I should note here that all applicants are not Honest Abe. Dishonest applicants know that telling the truth on applications could hurt their chances of being
accepted—as it very well should. So, they come prepared, armed with a list of references, addresses and phone numbers—of imposters. I’ve seen cases where tenants provide false names or contact information for previous landlords, steering potential landlords to friends or family members who agree to aid and abet them in their quest for housing. For that reason, you might want to ask more specific questions—like how many units do you have, please verify the applicant’s social security number so I know we are talking about the same person, and can I have the name and address of another tenant so I can ask them for a written reference for this tenant.
By asking more questions, you’ll be able to do a better job of determining whether this landlord is legitimate—or not. In addition, be aware of legitimate landlords who will tell you exactly what you want to hear because they will do anything, including lie about a tenant’s past, just to get rid of them. So, suffice it to say that while screening should include interviewing former landlords, it should be considered just one piece of the whole and weighed accordingly.
The American Apartment Owners Association www.aaoa.com recommends landlords ask these questions when talking with the current or previous landlord:
1. What was the tenant’s payment history?
2. Did the tenant give sufficient notice according to the lease?
3. Did the tenant fulfill all of the terms of the lease?
4. Did the tenant give a reason for moving?
5. Were there any complaints from neighbors about the tenant?
6. Would you rent to this tenant again?
Most landlords stick together, understanding the difficulties and headaches caused by bad tenants. If you’re lucky enough to contact one who is willing to honestly divulge information, you’re a step ahead of the game. Their glimpse into the tenant’s past can play a vital role in helping you to determine whether a tenant will pay their rent on time, fulfill the terms of their lease, and take proper care of your property.
It is worth the extra effort to screen applicants, and just as important to screen their former landlords. When you do, you can save yourself a lot of time, effort, money, and elbow grease when you part ways.
Email me with your tenant screening questions.