Thorough tenant screening of all prospective Maryland tenants is critical to the success of your rental property business. Place the wrong tenant in your property and you could face enormous financial loss, property damage, and even the fall of your rental property business altogether.
When you are screening potential tenants for your investment property, especially if you self-manage your property, it can be hard to figure out which criteria to take into account. And, while you may be tempted to ignore some obvious red flags so that you can place a tenant into your property more quickly, we are here to tell you not to fall victim to that hurried emotion.
There are several serious red flags that should alarm you during the tenant screening process if they ever crop up. Even if you employ a property management company to conduct tenant screenings for you, it is crucial you know exactly what they are looking for in the tenants that will ultimately reside in your property.
6 Red Flags to Look Out for During the Tenant Screening Process
1. Poor Credit
A potential tenant’s credit score is one of the most surefire ways to tell whether they are a quality prospect to lease your property or not. This is because a credit score provides a great overall view of a tenant’s financial stability. Plus, it provides insight into how they handle payments and the debt that comes with those payments.
In the end, the lower the credit score, the less qualified that particular tenant is of leasing your rental property. Although location and demographics may play a role in the exact credit score number you look for, anything below 650 is typically considered a red flag.
2. Inconsistent Income
Next to credit score, a tenant’s income and employment verifications are major factors when it comes to deciding whether they are a good fit for your property. In fact, it is not unusual for property owners to require tenants to make 2-3 times the monthly rent per month in income. Though this seems steep, with so many people floundering in debt, this value provides property owners comfort in knowing that their tenant makes enough money to pay their rent each month.
If your prospective tenant cannot verify the amount of income they make each month, take this as a huge red flag. If your tenant does not have enough income, your monthly rent requirement is sure to come up short at some point.
3. Prior Evictions
If your tenant has failed to pay in the past, or has broken a signed lease agreement so severely they were evicted, chances are high they will do the same to you. You may implement a zero tolerance policy when it comes to prior evictions and leasing your Maryland rental property. If, however, you want to include a level of flexibility when it comes to past evictions, aim for no prior evictions in the last five years. After all, sometimes things happen that are out of people’s control and evictions occur. However, be very selective when it comes to this and make sure your prospective tenant is flawless in every other aspect.
4. A Criminal Record
If a tenant you are screening has a criminal history, you might want to reconsider placing them in your property. Viewed as a major red flag, any prior convictions such as disturbances, DUIs, drug offenses, and driving without a license or insurance may indicate the tenant is unable to follow the law. In fact, you may even want to include multiple traffic stops and dismissed charges in your assessment of them.
5. Bad References
If you reach out to a reference that your potential tenant listed on their application, and you receive bad news about them, consider this your lucky day. Rarely will a listed reference say anything against a potential tenant if they are listed on the application.
However, that is not to say you cannot gather some useful information, even from a good reference. Make sure to ask the critical questions such as whether the tenant paid on time, if they ever caused any disturbances, and what the condition of the place was when the tenant left.
If your tenant’s reference reveals things that do not sit well with you, count that as a red flag. Moreover, if your potential tenant resists providing you references, especially previous landlords, take that as a red flag as well.
6. Moving Too Often
A tenant that moves a lot may turn out to be a bad tenant. There are questions to ask when it comes to a frequent mover such as why they move so much and whether the moves were on their terms or their previous landlords’ terms. This is where having previous landlord references is helpful. Though not always a reason to turn down a potential tenant, a tenant that moves a lot can signal a red flag and is something to consider carefully.
In addition to moving a lot within a short period of time, a tenant that was previously living with a friend or relative can be a red flag that needs further evaluation as well. True, many millennials are living with their parents longer than ever. And, this does not necessarily signify that once they do decide to move out on their own that they will be a poor tenant.
However, many people move in with friends and family after an eviction. This could end up being a big problem later on should you decide to place this tenant in your rental home. Make sure you investigate closely and find out exactly why a potential tenant had non-traditional living situations in the past.
Finding the perfect tenant for your Maryland rental property can be hard to do if you are inexperienced at tenant screening. Thus, hiring a property management company to help you with tenant screening, and everything else property related can be a lifesaver.
If you are in the Maryland area and want to place new tenants in your investment property, contact Bay Management Group to help. Not only do we know all of the red flags to look out for during the screening process, we understand how important it is not to discriminate against potential tenants in the process. Following the Fair Housing Act during the tenant screening process is essential to avoiding a lawsuit and ensuring the screening process is performed legally.
In addition, Bay Management Group can aid you in the management of your rental property after placing a high-quality tenant. From rent collection to routine inspections, on-call maintenance support to transparent bookkeeping, Bay Management Group takes all the hassle out of owning and leasing a Maryland rental property.