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Posts: 3
Reply with quote  #1 
Looking for advice about major red flags.  I ran the potential tenants credit.  One had a vehicle repossession and  bankruptcy in 2002.  Low credit scores (444 and 520).   As far as I can tell, neither have ever been late on rent.  What else should I be looking for?  Besides an increased security deposit, how else can I protect myself?  Thanks.


Posts: 3,817
Reply with quote  #2 

Screening tenants, for all occupants do the following::

1.  Verify present employment, length of time on present job (at least 1 yr.), wages (should be 3x the rent to be able to afford the place).

2.  Verify past employer for same info.

3.  Verify current rental - check for REAL LL's name through auditor's site or phone listing for complex, verify time there, current rent amount, timely payments, no lease/rule violations, no problems with disturbances, law, or health dept, check to see if all occupants listed on the application live at that rental address.

4.  Verify past LLs - same info, and dates in and out, if full SD was refunded, damages to unit, if unit was left clean, if tenants gave appropriate notice prior to leaving.

5.  Check criminal background through local county sheriff & police depts (criminal cases), and the county/city municipal court records (evictions, lawsuits) and through all counties the applicants have lived in according to other addresses on the credit checks.  Don't depend on internet sites that claim to check backgrounds, they miss lots!

6.  Check sexual predators site to verify that the applicant or another occupant isn't on the list (especially if the unit is near a school, daycare, playground, etc.).

7.  Check personal references, see what they will tell you about the applicant, but don't put too much stock in their opinions, friends will say anything.

8.  Finally, pull the credit report - look for the score yes, but look further at that report for more important information.  Look to see if their debt to income ratio is acceptable.  Look to see if current obligations are being paid on time, look to see what has been sent to collections (If medical bills, you may want to overlook these - many people have no insurance and get sick/injured and cannot pay).  If bankruptcies, have obligations been paid on time since they were filed?  Or did they go back to the same overspending/late payment patterns?  Look especially for other addresses they didn't list on the application and call those places.  Look for judgments or claims from other LLs, apt. complexes, or utilities.

9.  Verify that everything they put on the application matches up to what you have found out from other sources.  If you find obvious lies or misrepresentations, pass on them!

I hope this helps you to screen those applicants better.  And if you have a bad feeling about an applicant, or no applicant looks very good, run another ad, put a sign out front, print up fliers & post them all over, but just keep looking.  It's better to have to wait another week or two for a better tenant than to take one that you will soon have to evict in a month or two.

Oh, and one last thing, if you have to take a less than desirable tenant, take a larger SD and put them on a month to month.  It is much easier to get a bad tenant out when they are only renting monthly.  You may still have to evict them to get them out, but if they are on a lease, you must be able to prove in court that they materially breached the lease to win a judgment of eviction.


Posts: 3
Reply with quote  #3 
Thanks for your response.  I have their credit/criminal reports and am going to verify references and employment today.  I suppose I could do month to month, but I was hoping to get a longer term tenant in there as it's my first property and the turnover costs seem to be high (lead testing, etc.)  I was wondering whether getting them to pay the rent bi-weekly would be a good protection. 


Posts: 3,817
Reply with quote  #4 
Although a lease is supposed to lock them into paying the rent for a set time period, in reality it offers little protection.  If the tenant wants to move, they just move out and break the lease.  In most states it is illegal to charge a large fee for breaking a lease and you just can't keep the SD without an actual accounting.  Also, yes, they are responsible for the rent until you re-rent, but most states require you to make reasonable efforts to do so.  This means you have to advertise, show the place, take apps, screen them, etc. looking for a desirable tenant to replace them.  If you don't do this, many courts will not let you charge them for more than a month of extra rent.  So a month to month on a less than desirable tenant is a good thing.  You can easily dump him for no reason with only a 30 day notice (instead of trying to prove multiple lease violations in court).  I doubt that bi-monthly rent will afford you any more security.  If they stop paying, it wouldn't matter how often the rent was due.  If these people are this iffy, maybe you want to just keep looking for another week or two.  Be sure to put late fees in the lease (with no grace period).  I charge a flat 10% penalty that is due the day after the rent was due.  Also be sure you have an insufficient funds fee for bad ckecks (and if they give you one, you no longer accept checks from them - only money orders or certified bank drafts).  Have you talked to their last 2 LLs yet?  I find that is usually the most revealing.  (Not the current LL who may lie to get rid of a bad apple.)

Posts: 137
Reply with quote  #5 
Question for you Ohlandlord.

You mentioned it is ilegal to put a high fee for breaking a lease in most states anyhow. But I break a contract with most any cell phone company and they charge roughly $200. for a fee which is roughly 4 times the monthly bill. Doing the same buisness practice for rental property charging $1,500 fee for a $550. a month unit would be equal buisness practice would it not?
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