As a landlord, you can never be too careful when it comes to screening prospective tenants. Along with protecting you and your business, tenant screening also helps to protect your other tenants by providing greater peace of mind and security as well as helping you to find quality tenants. Proper screening can also help to reduce the number of evictions you have, an important benefit consider the time and expense that can be involved in evictions.
Although a credit check can reveal whether a prospective tenant meets your specific qualifications, it is often necessary to do more in-depth research to learn as much as you can about a prospective tenant's criminal history. In particular, it is important to check the applicant's current and past employment and rental history.
To get started, contact the applicant's current landlord in addition to at least one previous landlord. The more landlords that you can contact, the better. While the current landlord may provide a glowing reference because he or she is anxious to have the tenant to move on, checking with more landlords can give you a solid idea of what you can expect. In checking with landlords, make a point of asking whether the tenant paid his or her rent on time as well as whether they took care of the property. In addition, you should dig a little deeper and find out whether the tenant was courteous to other tenants and whether they followed the rules of the lease agreement. Remember that in some instances, you may get conflicting information, but more often, you will see a certain pattern of behavior emerging. If an applicant has had numerous problems in the past, it is probably best to pass on their applications and the problems they may create in the future.
It is also a good idea to check with the applicant's current employer. Prior to leasing a unit to the applicant, you will want to ensure that he or she will be able to pay the rent on time and that means checking out the tenant's employment situation. To ensure you have an accurate idea of the tenant's employment situation, be sure to verify that the individual you are speaking with is actually authorized to verify the tenant's employment. Unfortunately, some prospective tenants will simply provide the phone number of a family member, friend, or co-worker who will paint the tenant in glowing terms. While verifying the tenant's previous employment, be certain to verify that the tenant actually worked there and for the length of time stated on the lease application. It is not uncommon for applicants to stretch the truth a bit or even create a job out of thin air to make it seem as though they have a solid work history.
Screening a prospective tenant's employment and rental history is an extra step, but it is one that is necessary so that you can make an informed decision when reviewing prospects.