There will be times in your career as a landlord that you will need to fill a property. It may be one that you've just bought or you may have had a tenant move out, but either way, you're looking at a variety of people that will apply in which you likely have no history with. This is where the rental application process comes into play. There are certain things that you'll want to keep an eye out for to make sure that you choose the best tenant for your rental.
A good tenant screening will include both a credit and criminal check. This will allow you to search the applicant's financial obligations as well as an overview of any criminal history that they may have. You'll want to verify their income to ensure that the number that they provide you with is correct and then check it to the current obligations noted on the report. A few things to look for will be the number of open tradelines (credit cards, loans, or any other obligations such as these) and how much is owed. Check the monthly amount paid and see if they have a good history of paying on time. Has anything gone to collections (which means that they did not pay the bill in time and the debt was sold to a collection company) or do they show as being 30, 60 or even 90 or more days late on a payment? These are indications that they might have found themselves in financial hardship and may have trouble paying rent on time.
Criminal histories are a must when it comes to doing a background search. Just because an applicant has a criminal record does not necessarily mean that they have not gotten back on track and would make an excellent tenant now, but there are certain records that could very easily make them a danger to either you, your other tenants, or neighbors.
Just as you want to check for criminal activity, you'll also want to make sure that the applicant has not been evicted by any prior landlords. An eviction that was started but never completed may have ended with the tenant leaving the property early and the prior landlord holding the bill yet may now show on an eviction report if not completed, but it's a good practice to at least check the states that they've lived in. Evictions are long and often costly and should be avoided if you can by finding the right fit for the property. Check references to make sure that everything is out in the open and that they are everything that you hope. You may want to ask them for their reasons on why they're moving. If they're moving because of an issue with a prior landlord, this is a red flag.
There are many bad potential tenants out there, but there are also plenty of good ones as well. Screen each applicant carefully and it will help guard you against those bad ones and protect your property from harm.
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