Tenant screening can be a touchy subject. Some landlords don’t feel like they need to do anything except verify their prospective renter has a job and can pay a security deposit. Other landlords are extremely choosy and only want tenants with perfect credit and a six-figure income.
The purpose of screening tenants is to limit your risk and to ensure you’re renting to a responsible person who has a good history of paying rent on time, taking care of properties, and following lease terms. It’s a bonus if you can find someone who wants to stay in place for the long term and communicates well.
When you’re screening for the best tenants in Santa Rosa, we recommend you pay close attention to these items.
Check Credit and Payment Histories
Sometimes, landlords and even property managers will set a minimum FICO score that applicants must meet before they’re approved for a property. This is acceptable and can help you set a consistent standard. More important than the credit score, however, is the credit history. If you see a history of on-time payments for the things that matter, such as phone and utility bills, but the applicant is behind on their student loan payments or have a lot of medical debt, that may be okay for the purposes of renting them your home.
When you’re reviewing an applicant’s credit report, take a look at what the overdue bills and missed payments reflect. If you see outstanding water bills, utility bills, phone or cable bills, it could mean trouble. You want tenants who take their housing payments seriously. If someone cannot or will not pay an electric bill, there’s a good chance that they may not pay the rent, either. Be wary of any debts like this that you find on the credit report.
Verify Income and Employment
It’s also a good idea to set some income standards. The industry standard is typically to require that tenants earn at least three times the amount of your monthly rent. It’s a good starting point, and it ensures that your tenants are bringing in enough money to pay you on time every month.
Remember that you can have income standards, but you are not legally permitted to accept or deny certain types of employment or income sources. This now extends to Section 8 tenants. If you have an applicant who receives Section 8 benefits, you cannot refuse to consider their application. Those benefits count as income, and you’ll have to screen them the way you’d screen any other tenant.
Search for Past Evictions
Conduct a nationwide eviction history check. We do not recommend renting to anyone who has an eviction on their record. Setting this standard for every application will keep you consistent and fair. You might want to adjust your own standards to say you won’t rent to anyone with an eviction in the last 10 years. Set whatever standard you are comfortable with. Just remember that past behavior often predicts future behavior, especially when it comes to rental performance.
These are just a few of the things to look at when you’re screening tenants for your rental property. We know it can be overwhelming if you don’t have the experience and the resources that professional Santa Rosa property managers have. We’d be happy to help you find a well-qualified tenant. Contact us at Redwood Residential Property Management.