Due Diligence on Screening Potential Tenants

We all know the importance of screening tenants before renting out your units and why we should always do so. Screening tenants will help you make sure the people you are entrusting your properties with are credible, reliable, and trustworthy. But what are some other ways you can ensure that this potential candidate is who they claim to be even after a screening report?

Social Media as a Verifying source

Although some candidates may have private socials, often times they do not. Looking into an applicant’s social media accounts can be an amazingly insightful addition to rental applicant screening. LinkedIn is a great resource for validating employment history - its self reported but can be a helpful place to validate what the tenant says on their application in terms of employment history. Facebook can let you know if a pet exists that wasn’t on the application. Instagram may potentially help determine how frequently they throw parties that get out of hand. Lastly, Google it! Google can be a very useful resource to verify certain information on their application. Know what criteria you’re looking for on these sites and stick to it. Keep in mind that this should be an objective decision and never based off of a biased opinion or illegal discriminatory practices.

Meet the Applicant in Person

This is one of the best ways to get to know your candidates at a face to face level. Although this may be difficult for some who have larger portfolios and less time to sit down with everyone. (In this case, we recommend delegating this task to someone on your team.) It is very important to ask the right questions in these scenarios since this will ultimately drive the “interview” and really give you an idea of who the candidate is.

Check Previous Addresses & Contact past Landlords

Assuming the applicant was a renter, the history with those landlords should be researched and understood. You want to find out what they paid in rent, if those payments were timely (cross check this with bank statements), and whether the landlord or neighbors had any problems with the applicant while there. Connecting with past landlords is one of the best ways to get an understanding of who the tenant is and what they were like as a tenant. If you are able to connect with a previous landlord, you will be opened up to the most important information; Were they a good tenant? Did they pay in a timely manner? Would you rent to them again?

The previous landlord has no incentive to lie - whereas the current landlord may actually want the tenant to leave and be inclined towards making his/her problem your problem. If there are no great ways to verify past landlord, ask for details about their current living situation. If it’s a "room sublet where they never interacted with the landlord", ask how much they paid and why the tenant is leaving. Ask if they were paying rent to the landlord OR to the lease holder. These questions are crucial and will only benefit your screening processes.

When learning how to screen tenants, you should run credit checks, verify income and employment, conduct criminal and related background checks, and investigate prior landlord/residence history on all potential residents to determine whether prospective renters will likely make good tenants. Keep in mind that prior housing court information is no longer able to be used as verification; we recommend speaking with the tenant. Ask them about their rental history and why they decided to move. Tenant screening software and services such as Rent Application can help streamline the process. Rent Application is fast, accurate and provides reliable reports such as full credit history, nationwide criminal background checks, and most reports ready within minutes. Don’t forget to document everything! Fair methods for selecting tenants are nondiscriminatory, well documented and applied uniformly to protect yourself from fair housing complaints. If your research reveals your potential tenants are members of a protected class and you don’t offer them the rental unit, you could be exposing yourself to fair housing complaints and lawsuits. However, if your reasons for selecting different tenants are fair, nondiscriminatory, well-documented, and you applied your screening requirements uniformly, you should be protected. Screening tenants as thoroughly as possible is simply good business. Social media provides a fuller picture of potential renters than hard data such as credit reports, income and housing history may do alone but combined makes for great practice!

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