Property Management Blog

5 Warning Signs when Screen Tenants

System - Monday, October 23, 2017

The rental screening process is just getting more and more complex. Regulations vary widely from Seattle to Everett.  Some property owners are getting out of this rental market as a result of regulations and yet how can you walk away from one of the hottest growth areas in the country!  Seattle has had the highest crane count in the country for months.

Landlords are be forbidden from screening tenants based on  criminal records, under an ordinance the Seattle  City Council approved. This is just another owner burden on top of many recently added by government.  Seattle’s City Council has passed a new measure that will require landlords there to accept security deposits and other move-in fees — like last month’s rent — in installments. In addition, the law caps total fees — including the security deposit — at no more than one month's rent. Landlords can charge for reports, but only the precise amount used for that purpose.

Screening companies charges vary based on the process. Alliance 2020 charges more if a application is faxed in versus if an application is filled out on line. So alliance 2020 wants to get paid for data entry. So when a property manager has multiple applications for a property how does a management company control the screening process without seeing an application filled out? Then we have the supporting documents many applicant take a picture of their paystub and other supporting documents, frequently these documents are hard to read requiring more time on the part of the screener or management company.

So the Question is how do you screen tenants?

Screening tenants properly involve more than just using intuition, instinct, and gut feeling—some of the nicest applicants could be trouble. The best way to achieve this is by screening tenants using a full-service screening company that does things the old fashion way, physically calling to verify employment and using a seasoned property manager. Today’s technology is making things less personal.

Renting to a tenant is all about the occupant's character and you do not get that from a no-contact screening process.  In today’s world of fake news why trust a technology-based screening process?  What’s going to happen with a tenant diagnosed with cancer after move in?  Will they pay rent?

The wrong tenants in your rental property can cost you dearly. The right tenants should keep you in business.

Here are five warning signs that a potential tenant is likely to be problematic and what you should do about it.

  1.  They will do most anything to move in

Interviewing applicants is always wise. But you should do this in addition to other screening methods. Why? Because some people lie.

Some people are naturally nice, would make great tenants, and have nothing to hide. Such people will probably make a good impression on you. But people who are hiding something could also make a good impression. Such people are simply on their best behavior in the hopes that you’ll buy what they’re telling you without doing your due diligence (checking up on them).

Checking references is a good practice, but the references could be fake.

Applicants who are hiding something have been known to use their own “Art Vandelay” to trick you when you call to check references. Make sure you crosscheck references. If a reference is supposed to be the applicant’s boss, for example, don’t just call the phone number on the application. Internet searches the place of employment, and then call to see if that person really does work there.

  1.  Not everyone applies

If you will be renting to people in a roommate situation, get everyone to fill out an application. If they don’t want to do this, it signals a red flag. Even though you could make one person responsible for paying the entire rent, if everyone fills out an application and is on the lease, you’ll have more people to choose from if the rent isn’t being paid.

If you’re renting to young people who will have a parent be responsible for paying the rent, make sure you have the co-signer fill out an application and be on the lease as well.

  1. The application isn’t complete

If the applicant leaves out information such as rental history, job history, or references, this probably signals a problem. They may be trying to cover up that they tend to get fired from jobs or leave rentals after a short period. The same goes if they decline the background or credit check, making the application incomplete.

  1. They don't make enough money

Applicants should make enough money to afford to rent your property. They need to show you proof of income, and you should call their employer to verify that they really work where they say they do. Ideally, your tenants should make three times the rent, more if they have a huge debt load.

  1. Move-in costs in installments

Most landlords charge at least first-month rent plus security deposit for new tenants to pay before they move in. If an applicant asks to pay this in installments, it signals that they could have trouble paying rent. then again they could be a smart tenant knowing in seattle they can make installments why not ask?  .  The challenge here is Seattle is requiring this option so we are back to character

The bottom line:

Getting responsible tenants in your rental properties is one of the most important things you can do to ensure success with your rental business. Don't cut corners here, and be on the alert when you see warning signs. To pay a professional a months rent to properly perform this process alone is a bargain. Let the property sit vacant, it's cheaper than getting rid of a nightmare.

Residential property management throughout King and Snohomish County