Anyone landlord knows it’s essential to find the right tenant for your rental. Sure, it’s important to get somebody into your property so you can start generating rent. But if you don’t choose carefully, you could end up with someone who is habitually late on paying – if they pay at all! – or someone who causes major damage to your property or otherwise ends up costing you money.
There are three things we generally look for before we approve anyone for a particular rental property.
Tip No. 1: Run a background check
The thing first thing we do is a background check. That is kind of common sense. You want to see who is going to be residing in your property. You want to know their background, you want to know if they have any kind of criminal conviction. Because we’re based in Ohio, we don’t focus on credit.
In a higher-end market, I suggest people do a check credit, but you really shouldn’t be too harsh on bad credit. For example, I have a high-value company and my credit is only 665. Why is my credit only 665? Because I have so many open credit lines right now and when you open up a lot of credit lines your credit tends to drop. So the credit score in itself is not necessarily a good indicator of whether someone is a going to be a good applicant.
Do the background check to make sure they don’t have any felonies. Now, if they do have felonies but that record is 15-20 years old and it’s a felony for something like not paying child support, you can look past it. We all make mistakes. No one is perfect. Don’t judge people just because they have a black mark from 20 years ago.
If you really want to be picky about it and if it really bothers you, money speaks every language. Just ask for some kind of extra or additional security deposit to give you peace of mind. You can tell the applicant you want to charge them one month’s rent, the last month’s rent and an additional month of rent in advance. So you literally would be getting three months’ worth of rent in advance before you would allow someone to move into your property.
Do a background check to make sure they don’t have any serious recent felonies. If they do have any kind of criminal background or a felony from the past, try to negotiate a better deal where you will get three to six month’s rent in advance, a big deposit or whatever it may be to give you peace of mind that this person is going to stay and pay.
Tip No. 2: Look for prior evictions
The next thing to look for is whether they have an eviction on their record. If they do, it is an automatic disqualification, in my opinion.
Do not rent to anyone with an eviction. If someone has an eviction there is a strong likelihood they will not pay the rent or eventually, something will happen that takes you to the eviction stage. And you never want to get to that point.
Now there are a very, very few instances where someone has an eviction on their record because some odd thing happened in regard to vacating a property. For example, we had a lady who had an eviction on her record, but she wasn’t even aware that the black mark was there. She had mutually agreed with the previous landlord to vacate the property and for whatever reason, the landlord followed through with an eviction, so it showed up on her record. This lady actually wasn’t a bad risk and her income was great, so we looked past the eviction on her record and rented the property to her. She gave us a good enough story, and we believed her story. And we were able to find out what actually happened when we called some of her previous landlords and they all vouched that she was legit.
No. 3: Verify the applicant’s income
The next thing to do with a potential tenant is income verification. You want to confirm this person is making a 3:1 income ratio in regard to the rent. So if the rent is $1,000 per month, then this person should be getting $3,000 in income. Now, the income does not need to be generated through employment only. It can be generated through government assistance or however they get their income. But they still have to make the 3:1 ratio compared to the monthly rent. You can confirm it by calling their employer to verify they are making the right amount of money or verify by having them submit pay stubs so you know they are making sufficient income to cover the rent.
Bonus tip: Abide by the rules
This last piece of advice is just common sense: play by the rules. Fair housing rules say if someone proves good in income verification, background check and eviction check, by law you have to offer them the property. Some landlords also want to “size up” a prospective renter, but you need to be careful that you do not discriminate, even inadvertently.
When you are determining whether someone will be a good fit character-wise, make sure you are not breaking any laws through your methods or judgment. We all know difficult tenants can drain your energy and your pocketbook, so just make wise decisions when it comes to your rentals.