A close friend of mine just rented out her house without conducting any tenant screening. Now this didn’t baffle me just because I operate a tenant screening company :), but for someone that I consider remarkably intelligent and responsible, I was mystified about how she could take such a nonchalant approach to trusting tenants.
Without properly screening a new tenant a landlord can end up losing far more time and money than they gain. My friend is one of those landlords that assumes this would never happen to her because “she is a good judge of character and knows whether a person is trustworthy.” I really had to bite my tongue. I’ve been there, I’ve done that. I consider myself to be a pretty good judge of character as well, but after a decade of being a landlord, I’ve been burned too many times. The truth is, poor tenants are on the increase and they are becoming better at lying about their past. When interviewing the most successful landlords, they all say they absolutely positively would not give a new tenant keys prior to running a background check.
Tenant screening simply isn’t the expensive process that it used to be. And the fact is clear - landlords who did not screen their tenants have ended up in some pretty bad situations. For instance, here’s a few I’ve heard about:
- Tenant was a “professional renter” who knew the system and worked the system in such a way as to get over 1 year of free rent, plus $15,000 in costs from the landlord when the landlord did nothing wrong other than forgetting to screen this tenant. This tenant had been evicted numerous times in the past for doing the same thing which would have showed up on their background report.
- Tenant was a sex offender and the landlord did not check. Because this was a multi-unit property with kids, the landlord was held liable when a problem occurred with a neighboring child. This sex offender would have shown up in a background report.
- Tenant setup a drug operation inside their rental and contaminated the property. The landlord had to pay $35,000 to rehab the property before they could re-rent it. The landlord was out the $35k, plus over 6 months rent while the eviction and rehab took place. This tenant had prior drug issues which would have shown up in their background report.
These issues and many more could have been avoided if the landlords took 3 minutes and ran a background report on the tenants prior to giving them keys.
So if I’ve convinced you that tenant screening is necessary by now, let’s quickly go over what should be included in your tenant screening report:
- Nationwide criminal search: This will show me if the tenant has had criminal issues in my state, or any other state.
- Nationwide eviction records: This will show me if any other landlords have had to take this tenant to court to get them out of their house.
- Tenant Credit report: A credit report is critical to determine whether the applicant can actually afford your property. A credit report will not only show any delinquencies the tenant may have but it will show their current obligations. A simple formula is to take their income, minus obligations reported on their credit report and that is how much they have left to afford food, rent, utilities, and gas.
Tenant screening is not the expensive or complicated process that it used to be. Now, this may be a shameless plug, but at AccuRental we’ve built a tenant screening system to make the screening process as quick and painless as possible. Check out our new commercial to learn more about AccuRental: