Every landlord wants to know as much as possible about prospective tenants. A bad tenant can mean loss of income, damage to the property, or even problems with the law. A good tenant can mean steady, reliable income and peace of mind that someone is taking good care of the property. That’s where a good background check comes in.
The place of the screening report
Performing background checks on prospective renters is becoming the norm, and it’s possible to get a quality tenant screening report free of charge. These screenings are a great way to find out some things about a tenant, but it’s also important to know how to implement them to your greatest advantagel.
Common myths about background checks
There are some myths about background screenings that can keep you from getting the most out of them. Here are some of the most common.
Myth 1: You can find out everything you need to know from social media
Social media is, quite simply, not a good way to find out what you need to know. Tempers get hot on the internet, and behind the perceived wall of digital anonymity people feel freer to say things they might otherwise not say.
What does this mean? It means that your applicant might say things on social media that don’t reflect what they would actually do in real life. It also means that the angry ex-landlord who is stalking them on Facebook might be making stuff up. The point is you have no way to know.
Myth 2: You can do a basic background check on your own via the Internet
Lots of personal information is available on the internet, but one of the biggest hurdles is finding out if it all belongs to your applicant. How do you know whether the Robert T. Ellison who wants to rent from you is the Bob T. Ellison whose drug arrest record is available online or the Robert Thomas Ellison who’s a respected manager at the material handling equipment company in New Jersey? Obviously, the latter would make a great tenant, and you wouldn’t want to pass up on a great tenant due to misinformation!
A good screening report helps you find out exactly what information belongs to your prospective renter so that you aren’t distracted by extraneous information.
Myth 3: All I really need to know is if they pay their rent on time
It takes more than financial responsibility to make a good tenant. Of course, you want a renter who pays on time. Equally important is having a mature, responsible tenant who takes all their responsibilities seriously.
You want someone who will treat your property with respect, will get along well with the neighbors, and who will be easy to talk to. When you look at a tenant screening report, don’t stop with the credit report number or the bank account figure: look deeper.
Myth 4: You can’t ask anyone about their citizenship
Under federal law, landlords have the right to ask a potential tenant to prove their US citizenship or legal right to reside in the United States. In fact, it’s in your best interests to do so, as it’s never a good idea to rent to tenants you suspect may be breaking any kind of law.
The one thing that’s important to note, however, is that you aren’t allowed to pick and choose which potential renters you’ll ask to prove their status. You can either ask all of them or none of them.
Myth 5: Anyone with pets should be automatically rejected
Some landlords reflexively refuse to rent to people with pets, and that’s understandable. Pets owned by irresponsible people can destroy property. It’s never a bad idea to require a cleaning fee for pets or a larger security deposit, but should you reject applicants just because their screening shows they love keeping pets?
It turns out that people with pets are often more responsible than than those without pets. Pets also improve the emotional and behavior well-being of their owners, which can translate into happier, more stable renters who are easier to get along with.
Your tenant screening report is a valuable tool. Just make sure you’re using it to best effect.