Your Seattle rental home is probably one of your most important investments, and you want to make sure it is treated well and enjoyed by high quality tenants. That’s why tenant screening is crucial. When you get the wrong tenant in your property, things can get very complicated very quickly. You don’t want to be chasing your tenants down for rent every month and you don’t want to get a property back that is damaged and destroyed. Avoid all of that by doing a thorough and complete tenant screening, just like we do as professional property managers.
Always check out an applicant’s financial background. This starts with a credit report. While a good tenant does not need to have perfect credit, there should be an indication that the tenant pays bills on time, particularly utility bills and housing payments. You don’t want to see any collection activity from prior landlords or a pattern of avoiding bills. In addition to the credit report, make sure you can verify income. Call an applicant’s employer to confirm job title and salary and ask to see recent pay stubs. This will help you determine whether a potential tenant earns enough money to pay rent.
Every background check should include a screening for criminal activity in the past. Most landlords prefer to rent their homes to tenants who have no criminal history at all. Establish what you will tolerate and what you will not. Make your criminal search as wide ranging as you can. Check sexual offender registries as well as police records.
You want to rent your home to a tenant who comes highly recommended. Talk to the applicant’s current landlord and talk to at least one previous landlord as well if you can. If the tenant is awful, his current landlord might say anything positive just to get him out of his own property. Ask whether rent was paid on time, if there were any complaints from neighbors and what kind of condition the property was left in when the tenant moved out. You can get good information on how a tenant behaves by talking to former landlords. Always verify you are actually talking to the landlord. Don’t let an applicant give you a friend’s phone number instead. Spend some time doing a little research to confirm you are speaking to the right person.
Tenant screening is essential to getting the best tenant into your property. Paying attention to Fair Housing laws is also important. You cannot discriminate during your screening process, so make sure you have consistent requirements and use the same standards for everyone.
If you need any help with tenant screening, please contact us at Dave Poletti & Associates, and we’d be happy to talk to you more about how to develop a successful screening process.