An eviction raises a big red flag for any landlord. A prospective tenants that has already broken one lease might be more likely to break another. In most circumstances, an eviction on record is enough to warrant an automatic rejection of an application. That doesn't mean that you should always turn down applicants with an eviction. If you have trouble keeping your vacancy rates low, you might need to accept tenants with less than perfect records. When that happens, you should know when it might be acceptable to accept an eviction, and when it would be best to keep looking. Here are seven questions you should ask:
When was the eviction?
The first and possibly most important question you should ask about any eviction is when it happened. A recent eviction might warrant that instinctive 'no,' but one that happened seven years ago might not. After all, a person can change a lot in seven years. Also, keep in mind that very recent evictions may not show up on an application at all. This means you may have rented to several tenants with prior evictions without even knowing it.
How many evictions are there?
A single eviction can happen to anyone. When prospective tenants have multiple evictions on record, it is probably best to move on to other candidates. A pattern of behavior makes it likely that you will be forced to go through the same legal process with these prospects as their previous landlords.
Who was responsible?
Evictions may not be as cut and dry as they first appear. If a couple rents an apartment, a change in relationship status can cause an eviction. What a couple can afford in rent, an individual might not be able to meet. Another issue might involve a specific roommate. If one person consistently fails to pay his or her portion of the rent, all of the tenants in the unit can face eviction. This could leave people who always pay on time with that negative dragging down their rental prospects.
Why was he or she evicted?
Keep in mind that not all evictions are a result of non-payment. Any violation of lease terms can result in an eviction. If a tenant obtains a pet that is prohibited, he or she might be evicted. If a tenant fails to meet sanitation standards or has the electricity turned off, he or she might be evicted. While none of these are ideal, they may not be instant negatives. For example, you might allow pets, so the issue of a large dog or a cat might not affect your decision.
Did he or she have a change of life?
Life happens. A layoff or injury might affect a tenant's ability to make rental payments for a time. When he or she is reemployed or fully healed, he or she might be an ideal tenant. The circumstances surrounding any evictions can help you decide on the level of risk associated with prospective tenants. If they are frequently unemployed, that could be a problem, but if they have a strong employment history, you might consider renting to them.
How long is his or her rental history?
If a prospective tenant has been renting for many years, a single eviction may not be the same red flag it would be for someone with only a year or two as a tenant. If a tenant can provide several good references from previous landlords, he or she may have simply had a problem with a specific property. For example, some states allow tenants to make repairs directly and deduct the remainder from their rent. If the prospective tenant chose not to fight an eviction or deal with a legal dispute, he or she could wind up with an eviction on record. Look at his or her total rental history, not just the black mark or red flag.
Can I charge a higher security deposit?
If a tenant has an eviction on record that was due to non-payment, you might want to charge a higher security deposit. If he or she pays two months or more as a security deposit, you won't face a major loss if he or she defaults on the lease. Of course, do keep in mind that you will need to refund any of the security deposit left after re-renting the apartment. For example, if the tenant defaults with a two-month security deposit and your re-rent the apartment after a single month, you will need to send him or her one month of the security deposit. Remember that many states require you to immediately begin looking for a tenant for the vacant property. You can not leave the property empty and let the time run. With these caveats, a larger security deposit may not seem as attractive, but it can be a way to encourage tenants to stick to their lease terms.
An eviction is not an instant denial
The circumstances surrounding an eviction could make it understandable. While a tenant without an eviction on record is usually a better option, an eviction alone should not automatically deter you. Ultimately, you should base your decision on the prospective tenant's total history, employment, circumstances and ability to meet the lease agreement. Even collecting on a few months is often better than a vacancy, provided the tenant takes care of the property.
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