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Screening Applicants for your Rental Property

System - Friday, August 10, 2018

Are you a landlord needing to screen potential tenants?  Do you want to know what questions to ask and what you should be checking?  Screening potential tenants for your rental can be a daunting process.  With a bad tenant, you are troubled with late rent checks, damages, and angry calls from neighbors.  With a good tenant in place, landlords have peace of mind knowing that rent will be paid on time and their property will remain in good condition.

At Mayfair Property Management, LLC we conduct extensive screening on all tenants and handle everything from moving your qualified tenant into their new home, to rent collection, to handling maintenance issues.  Here are some tips from our property management team in Fort Lauderdale.

Always begin by having every potential tenant complete a leasing application.  Be meticulous to make sure that your application checks all the boxes for the information you need to know about the prospective tenant.  You want the application to encompass financial information, personal information, and employment information.

It is a good idea to have the application state that a background check, credit check, and criminal history report may be ordered.  Make sure that your leasing application states that the prospective tenant is granting authorization for a check on all these things.

On a rental application, you want to look for how long the applicant has been at their current job and if have they changed jobs frequently.  That could be a red flag for instability in their finances.  You also want to see if their income level covers the rent as well as normal living expenses.

You should request the contact information from previous landlords as well as amounts of rent paid and reasons for leaving.  This will help you get a clear picture of the applicant’s rental history. Gaps or missing contact information for landlords could be a bad sign.

Ask your potential tenant about their lifestyle too such as if they have pets.  Also, ask how many people will be occupying the property.  That is a necessity on all rental applications.

It is always a good idea to have a credit check done on your potential tenant.  In Fort Lauderdale, make sure you check the Florida laws because some states allow the landlord to charge a prospective tenant the cost of ordering a credit and a background check on them.  A professional property management company such as Mayfair is well-versed in state laws and able to do the screening of all prospective tenants for you.

A credit-check gives the details about the applicant’s credit history.  Keep an eye out for bankruptcy, history of late payments, collection accounts, and off-card accounts being charged.  Use your best judgment to deem if you believe your applicant has a reliable credit history.  Credit debt is something to be very conscious of when screening your prospective tenants.

Running a background check is a great way to get a detailed report of the applicants past.  Consider if the prospective tenant has recently been evicted, has a criminal record, or has been involved in a legal battle such as a suing.  You probably do not want to rent to someone who has been sued for unpaid rent, child support, or another serious matter.

To get to know if a tenant is going to be reliable and a good fit for your property, contact their current or most recent landlord.  You definitely want to ask their landlord if the tenant has paid their rent and if the landlord was made aware that the tenant is moving out.

In addition to asking the applicant’s current landlord about the rent, it would be wise to ask some basic questions about the applicant’s lifestyle.  Have they caused major damage to the property?  Were there any noise complaints or significant issues with neighbors?  Did the applicant qualify to receive the return on their security deposit? 

As well as contacting current landlords, when screening potential tenants, you should also contact their current employers.  You need to verify that the applicant has a reliable and steady source of income.  You can request paystubs from the applicant, or you can contact their employer directly.  Certifying funds is a must do before allowing a tenant to sign a lease. 

After running a background check, it is a good idea to do an interview yourself with the potential tenant.  It just needs to be a quick call to find out some more about them and their lifestyle.  Make sure you are following the Fair Housing Act and not discriminating based upon, disability, color, family, status, national origin, race, religion, or sex.  In Fort Lauderdale, make sure you are in keeping with Florida Tenant law. 

Some good questions to ask the applicant is if they have pets and if so, are they housebroken.  Ask them if they plan on getting a roommate.  Ask them if they are smokers.  Ask them if they work really odd hours at their job.  These are just some sample questions that help you get a better picture of the prospective tenant’s lifestyle.

It can be very risky to screen rental applicants yourself.  You may accidentally overlook something that could be a significant red flag.  That is why it is always a good idea to hire a property management company.  Mayfair Property Management, LLC will do an in-depth and meticulous screening on all tenants for you and assist you with handling everything in the renting process.