Screening tenants is a tedious but necessary part of the leasing process for your Lancaster rental property. Without a careful screening process, you open your property up to trouble tenants, vacancies, and potential evictions. Follow these tenant screening tips for your Lancaster rental property.
How to Screen Tenants for Your Lancaster Rental Property
Most online programs can take care of these items 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 essential piece of the screening process. Never just trust someone’s word that they’re 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 that they have a perfect rental history. However, you can’t take their word on this subject—screen 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 doesn’t owe a large sum in collections, pays bills on time, and doesn’t have any fraudulent behavior on their record.
Tenant Screening Programs Available:
- AppFolio: AppFolio is perhaps the most popular option 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.
- FICO Credit Report/Eviction Search/Criminal Check: Of course, if you choose not to use an extensive check, there are other sites available to check individual items such as credit or criminal background. Checking different sites can be a bit more tedious and take more time.
Things to Look For in Your Tenant Screening Report
Now that you know what items to consider while screening and how to screen, it is essential to determine 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 be 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 you see a significant history of late rental payments and attorney fees, it’s not worth the risk.
- Property Hopping – If they have a history of switching around properties every few months or so, consider that there may be a reason for it. However, it’s likely okay to accept them if they can prove that they’ve needed to move for work or another valid reason. If not, it’s often a more significant risk than reward.
- Low Credit Score – Low credit scores should not be allowed to rent your property without a guarantor. A guarantor can give you some assurance 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 at least 600 is acceptable.
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 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.
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:
- Marketing & Advertising Rental Properties
- Leasing & Vacancy Management
- Tenant Screening
- Rent Collection
- Evictions Services
- Property Maintenance
- Property Inspections
Bay Property Management Group Lancaster has a team of highly skilled property managers to handle all of your property management needs. From a proven tenant screening program to rent collection and eviction services, we handle everything so you can take the stress out of being a Lancaster County landlord.