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Tenant Screening Tips for Harrisburg, PA Landlords

Screening tenants is a tedious and necessary part of the leasing process for your Harrisburg rental property. Without a careful screening process, you open your property up to trouble tenants, vacancies, and potential eviction.

Screening Tenants For Your Harrisburg, PA Rental Property

Examples of Trouble Tenants:

  • Problem Payers: Those with a history of late payments or non-payments. These individuals will ignore late fees and pay on their terms, ignoring the terms stated in the lease. These tenants typically have a history of eviction and rent court filings on the record.
  • Wrecking Balls: The last thing you want is to deal with a tenant causing havoc in your property. These tenants fail to maintain your property and consistently cause damage to the home.
  • Lawbreakers: Illegal activity in your rental property could put you at risk. Lawbreakers have no regard for rules, neighbors, or your property.
  • Problem Pets: Some tenants will be overly indulgent with their pets and allow their pets to damage the home. Whether it’s chewing up the woodwork, urinating on the carpets, or digging up the landscaping, you should avoid tenants with problem pets.

How To Screen Tenants for Harrisburg, PA Rental Propertiestenant screening tips harrisburg pa

Most online programs can take care of all of the items on the screening list all at once. Important details to check during screening include:

  • Criminal History: This should at least cover the past seven years. Before you can trust the applicants to live in your property, you need to check their criminal history. As the property owner, you need to protect your property as well as the safety of the neighbors.
  • Employment and Income Verification: This is another can’t miss the part in the screening process. Never go off of someone’s word that they are employed and make adequate income to live on the property (three times the monthly rent is standard). Verify with pay stubs or W2s. If necessary, reach out to HR at their listed company.
  • Eviction and Rental History: If you ask an applicant, they’ll assure you they have a perfect rental history. However, you can’t take their word on this subject. Make you’re your screening checks for evictions and rent court filings. History of evictions and late payments make that tenant high-risk for similar behaviors to occur again.  
  • Credit report: A credit report is the best way to verify someone isn’t in an obscene amount of debt, pays bills on time, and doesn’t have any fraudulent behavior.  

Tenant Screening Programs Available

  • AppFolio: AppFolio is perhaps the most popular (or one of the most popular) options out there for tenant screening. All of the items mentioned above can be checked and verified through AppFolio.
  • Experian RentBureau: Experian RentBureau is another one-stop-shop for tenant screening and well-liked in the Property Management world.
  • Other Resources: FICO credit check, nationwide eviction search, and a nationwide criminal search: Of course, if you choose not to use one of the two programs mentioned above, there are plenty of criminal background check sites, FICO credit score check options and eviction search options. This is the least attractive option as it requires more time and is a bit more tedious.

You Have the Tenant Screening Report, Now What?

Now that you know what items to consider while screening and how to screen, it is essential to realize when to deny a tenant based on their background check/reports. How should I decide whether to approve or deny?

  • Criminal History ~ If the potential tenant has a criminal background that includes a felony conviction, they should be denied. Charges including but not limited to; domestic violence, assault and battery, major drug charges, any felonies within the past seven years, and sexual assault should never have their application accepted.
  • Eviction History ~ If there is a history of eviction, a prospect should not be accepted. The applicant may try to reason and claim a change of behavior, but at the end of the day, it is a valid reason to deny them and accepting that tenant is not worth the potential risk. Evictions (even just one) tend to repeat.
  • Late Payment History ~ If while checking with past landlords or running a rental and credit report you see late rent payments and significant history of it, it is not worth the risk.
  • Property Hopping ~ If they have a history of switching around properties every few months or so, keep in mind, there is a reason for it. With that, if they have moved around a lot for a job or another reason that they can prove, then it is probably okay to accept them. If not, it is a more significant risk than reward most times.
  • Low Credit Score ~  Low credit scores should not be allowed to rent your property without a guarantor. A guarantor can give you some reassurance that the tenants will be able to make timely rental payments. Without one, do not accept those with a low credit score. Typically, in the property management industry, a credit score of 600-620 or higher is acceptable. 

Do You Need a Property Management Company?

Whether you’re a new landlord or an experienced do-it-yourselfer, a full-service property management company might be right for you. A property management company will already have a screening process and property management software in place to make the process easier. Additional benefits to working with a full-service property management company include:

  1. Marketing & Advertising Rental Properties
  2. Leasing & Vacancy Management
  3. Tenant Screening
  4. Rent Collection
  5. Evictions Services
  6. Property Maintenance
  7. Property Inspections

Bay Property Management Group offers solutions to all of your Harrisburg property management needs, including tenant screening and vacancy management.