If you've lost a tenant suddenly, potentially due to pandemic-related job loss or resulting economic struggles, we know how quickly you may want to find a new renter. As your guide to Chesapeake property management, we share your concern about the vacancy, and we all want to make sure the right tenant moves in quickly!
However, the first tenant applications to show up may not be the best ones for your rental property: if they are pushing for a quick, no-questions-asked entrance to your rental, all may not be as it seems. Some individuals exploit loopholes in the world of landlord work to live in your property rent-free.
This is more likely to happen than you think; you may be more willing to give your applicants the benefit of the doubt when they ask you to bend the rules. Especially considering the current situation we find ourselves in as a community! However, this kind of benevolence in your screening process can often carry a hefty price tag.
Tenants who work hard to get into a property and then stay as long as possible with very little payment are called "Professional Tenants." They can make life very difficult for landlords and inexperienced property managers alike. Avoid this frustrating outcome by sticking to your guns and implementing a consistent tenant screening protocol during tough times.
Foreword: If you've found this blog, it may be because you're facing a serious disaster scenario. While we are experts in Chesapeake property management, this blog is not intended to replace in-person legal counsel. If you need live support, get in touch with us!
Hire a Property Manager to Handle Screenings
The Professional Landlords at Renters Warehouse already have standard ways to review tenants, making sure that the important bases are covered:
- Is this person who he or she claims to be?
- Do they have a history of late or missed payments?
- Do they have the income, savings, or track record to pay the rent?
- Do they have a history of property damage or disruption, according to their former landlords?
Getting this information and factoring it into whether or not to lease to an applicant is legally-sound and property smart.
Tenants who push to skip steps like background checks or ID checks may have a vested interest in you not knowing about their past; often, these same tenants will attempt to secure the property with ready cash on hand—even more than you request yourself—which can make them seem like a good investment.
However, Professional Landlords aren't fooled by these tactics—and you shouldn't be either. Working with a Chesapeake property management professional can help you avoid tenants who try to skirt your screenings.
Doing Your Own Screenings? Follow Approved Tips
If you aren't working with a property manager, remember that there are quite a few different ways you should ensure that your tenants don't have red flags hiding in their past. These include:
- Requiring legal identification to prove their legal names and social security or tax identification number, which is key to being able to run background checks.
- Permission to pull credit reports, which can show you if they have been delinquent in payments in the past and how much debt they currently have.
- A criminal background check that looks through the most common background check databases. Certain criminal convictions have a bearing on one's integrity and ability to be a strong tenant candidate.
- Landlord verifications from the past and employment verification to prove a current ability to pay.
Within each of these categories, there are other smaller items of note, but remember to keep the big picture in mind. You're trying to get as complete a picture as possible of this tenant's ability to pay on time and maintain the condition of your rental property.
This information can help you to make a strong decision between the tenant applications you have—as well as whether you need to go out and market for another round of applicants. Remember: eviction is expensive, and it's far better to get the right tenant after a few more weeks than to get a tenant who will cause you nothing but extensive out-of-pocket costs.
Remember: Don't Discriminate; Focus on Red Flags
All of the tenant screening wisdom we share points to an important truth: the goal is to never, never discriminate.
Discrimination can crop up stealthily in your tenant screening process. You might dismiss a trustworthy tenant or admit one who actually won't pay rent well if you just use your hunches, feelings, and past experiences. Instead, focus on concrete facts connected to the person's rental and payment histories, as well as significant breaches of integrity that might be seen in major criminal convictions.
You don't want to eliminate people for tiny issues in their past either; you're better off picking a tenant that acknowledges their mistakes and has established a new track record of trust than someone who seems to have a lot in common with you but who has hidden their past.
During a difficult time, screening applicants can feel frightening—especially if you're experiencing a lower than average volume of applications. Even with those fears in mind, we want to encourage you again as your ally in Chesapeake property management to stay the course and find the right renter with a thorough screening process.
If you don't feel confident managing this process alone, that's just fine; you've got us to watch your back! However, thorough and ethical screening services aren't the only benefits we bring to the table for property owners. To get additional insight into how we serve you, download your free copy of our Collecting Rent in a Crisis Handbook!