As a landlord, finding good tenants can be a fine line to walk.  We need to fill the rental unit as quickly as possible, but we also do not want to rent to just anyone who applies or expresses interest.  The long term affects can be devastating.  Property damage, late rent checks, noise complaints, and potential eviction proceedings can quickly add up to huge amounts of unforeseen additional expenses.

On top of all that, landlords must meet certain governmental criteria in order to protect themselves from being accused of favoritism, discrimination, or other types of unfair rental practices.  For this single reason alone, having a detailed approval process that thoroughly reviews each applicant’s tenant background and financial history is critical.  The same process should be used for all potential renters to protect yourself from potential legal allegations of prejudice.

Property Damage

 Even in light of the recent surge in rental units since the housing crash of 2008, many prospective tenants are younger adults just starting out on their own.  They may be renting for the very first time and may be completely unaware of the characteristics of a responsible renter.  Finding good tenants who are not going to leave in the middle of the night without having paid their monthly rent is always preferred.  But running a tenant background search on new, first-time applicants without any previous rental history can be a challenge.  Checking personal and professional references can add some valuable peace of mind.

Previous Evictions

 During the application process, checking the potential renter through a national eviction search can make finding good tenants a much easier process.  This should be one of the very first steps of your tenant screening process.  If your renter has already been evicted from a previous property in the past, this should raise a lot of red flags.  The landlord can save himself a great deal of extra time, money, and stress by performing this essential part of the tenant background screening process first.  The sites that you use to search for this eviction information may also supply you with other additional data, such as previous neighbor complaints, property destruction, or criminal activity.

Fair Housing Act

 It is illegal to reject an applicant based on their race, gender, religion, nationality, or disabilities.  Doing so can land you in a court of law, even if you did not intentionally reject them on these types of biases.  All that the rejected applicant needs is a “possibility of prejudice” to file a complaint.  Even parents with young children cannot be denied.  But having a consistent approval and tenant background review process in place that is used with every single rental application is the surest way of protecting yourself from potential lawsuits and finding good tenants.  All landlords should be extremely well versed in the details of the Fair Housing Act.

Many property owners take themselves completely out of the tenant approval process altogether by hiring a reputable property management firm to review these potential tenant backgrounds instead.  The better property management companies are experts at weeding out the poor prospects while also having a strong focus on renter retention and keeping you out of court.

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