Screening prospective tenants is one of the most important functions of a landlord or property manager. If you can weed out the bad apples in advance, such as those who might have the propensity to not pay their rent or damage your property, you can save yourself time, money and aggravation in the long run. That being said, there are a number of myths and misconceptions surrounding the process of tenant screening. Let’s take a look at a few of these so you’ll know what to avoid.
Credit Scores Are Key
A high credit score can be a good indicator that an applicant is responsible. This isn’t necessarily always the case, however. For instance, a person with a stellar credit rating may pay their bills on time, but that doesn’t mean they won’t damage your property. Likewise, someone with a lower credit score might be an excellent candidate who simply ran into a difficult time and is trying to rebuild. The thing to remember is that a credit score is just a number. Dig deeper to find out the person behind that number.
Small Pets are No Problem
Many landlords learn the difficult and costly lesson that even a smaller pet can cause significant damage to a property. It’s really not the pet you need to be concerned about, but the owner. For example, someone with a cat may neglect changing the litter box or a small dog may be allowed to bark incessantly. Meanwhile, that applicant with the 75 pound lab might be a much more responsible pet owner who has trained her dog well. If you’re going to allow pets, be mindful of these truths.
You’re Responsible for Credit/Background Check Costs
Background and/or credit checks typically cost around $30 to $50 each. New landlords and inexperienced property managers often mistakenly believe it’s up to them to eat that cost when screening a tenant. While some may offer this as a courtesy, most pass this fee onto the applicant. In doing so, not only will you save money, but you’ll also weed out a few undesirables before you waste any more time screening them.
Any Tenant is Better than a Vacancy
The longer an apartment, home or office space sits empty, the more it impacts your bottom line. Because of this, it can be tempting to just accept the first interested applicant just to get those vacancies filled. But if you’re not careful and you end up with a subpar tenant, not only could you be facing an expensive eviction in the future, but you’ll be back at square one again once you get them out. Being patient and thorough with this process may take a bit longer, but it’ll pay off for the long term.
One Reference is Good Enough
As a busy landlord or property manager, cutting corners to save time can seem like a good idea, which is why many in the industry stop after contacting the first reference provided. But calling just one could easily provide you with an inaccurate picture of who an applicant is and whether they would make a reliable tenant. Once you’ve narrowed down your selection to a few candidates, spend a few extra minutes calling all of the references provided, especially past landlords and employers.
Being successful in property management involves more than just keeping vacancies at a minimum. It’s about finding long-term, reliable and respectful tenants who will pay their rent and care for your property as if it were their own. By implementing a comprehensive screening process and avoiding the five myths above, you’ll put yourself in a much better position over the long haul.