Performing a thorough tenant background check is one of the most important tasks you will face as a landlord. Learn more about the process in our latest post!
For many landlords, finding and screening tenants is one of the things they look forward to the least. However, you don’t want to rush the process just to fill a vacancy. Allowing a bad tenant to rent your property will only end up costing you more in the long run. Make sure you adhere to the process and take all of the precautions needed in order to protect yourself from tenant turmoil down the road.
Any tenant you are considering should first begin the process by filling out a rental application. This application will tell you many things about the applicant and should include the following fields. Their name, social security number, previous addresses, phone number, previous landlord information, job history and references, monthly income. You should also ask for their bank information if you plan on running a credit check. You will need a signed consent of your intent to run a background check, criminal history report and credit check. A credit check will require a special authorization form in order to be compliant with the Fair Credit Reporting Act.
Look For Red Flags
Before investing in professional background checks, look for things on your own that might lead to tenant drama. For example, they list many jobs within a small period of time. Or their references seem a bit shady… like maybe they are using their friends instead of actual work references. It is fine to change jobs, but if they aren’t able to hold one down, they may have trouble coming up with rent each month.
Meet With Applicant
This is a person you will have many interactions with so you will want to make sure you get along. They will be living in your home and you need to feel comfortable with them being there. It is important to make sure this is someone of strong character, who is honest and who will treat your property as if it were there own. Of course, you won’t be able to tell all of this from one meeting, but you will be able to get a pretty good idea of what kind of person they are. Just like a job interview, ask a lot of questions. Ask them why they are moving, are they a smoker, do they have pets? Will they want pets in the future? Do they often have friends or family staying with them? While you don’t want to be too intrusive, these kinds of things are important when choosing tenants for your Southern California home.
Run The Reports
Take the time to run a credit check using the scores from the three major reporting bureaus. The background check must be done by an approved Consumer reporting agency according to the fair credit reporting act. This background check will show things like past criminal activity and if they are a registered sex offender. Some of these reports require a fee, so be prepared. You can offset this cost by including an application fee with the completed application. This will also ensure the prospective tenants you are working with are serious about renting your place.
You will want to reach out to past and present employers as applicable. Also, speak to previous landlords and roommates if possible This will give you a better idea of how they are day to day. You can ask for personal references as well, but these will likely simply friends of the applicant who won’t typically have any disparaging remarks.
Make Your Decision
This shouldn’t be taken into lightly. Think about all of the factors and what you have learned about the prospective tenant. Listen to your gut and don’t rent to anyone you are unsure about. Having the wrong tenant living in your Southern California renatl property can cost you a fortune.