As a residential landlord, your goals include to minimize vacancy time, obtain the highest quality tenant and receive the highest rental income possible. While each of these goals has their hurdles, finding a quality tenant can be one of the more challenging objectives to reach. Of course, each potential tenant fills out an application, consents to a background check and waits for approval. The trick is learning to read between the lines and figure out if a potential tenant will pay their rent, pay their rent on time, and take care of your investment property. Here are a few tips of what to look for.
1- Evictions and or Rental Judgments: A good screening company will catch this; however they are not always perfect. Checking with County Records yourself will sometimes reveal these items to you. Evictions and rental judgments within the last year usually automatically disqualify tenants (unless they pay most of the yearly rent upfront). Even more important to know is how forthcoming a tenant has been. Chances are if they are trying to hide their irresponsible past, they won’t be responsible for you. On the other hand, if potential tenants are forthcoming and have paid the judgments off, they may have simply had a bad stroke of luck. Always check as much of their rental history as possible to determine how likely they are to pay.
2- Debt- If a tenant has many late accounts, lots of credit card debt; they may have a hard time paying you. In today’s market, foreclosures, short sales and medical debt are almost common place and are easier to look over than other types of debt.
3- Employment history- Do they make 2.5 to 3 times the monthly rent. If they do not, no matter how great their intentions, bills pile up and you may end up being second or last if they can’t afford to buy groceries. Use paystubs, conversations with supervisors to determine not only if they generate enough income, but whether they have stable employment for the term of their lease.
While each situation is different, I recommend creating guidelines of what you will or will not accept when it comes to tenants to make it easier, quicker and in compliance with Fair Housing laws. Although you may have to let some tenants go, it is better to screen critically than to let it go and see evictions later.