Are you considering renting out your property? If so, the screening process is vital in finding the right tenant for your rental property. While some homeowners prefer to be hands-on landlords, others choose to hire a property management company to handle the many responsibilities, including finding a qualified tenant.
Here are some tips from a few Long & Foster Property Management professionals to help you find a reliable tenant.
Find a Tenant Who is Financially Responsible: If a potential tenant is financially responsible, they will likely pay their rent on time and keep your property in good condition. To confirm their financial status, you will want to verify their income and run a credit check. “We require the tenant to earn an annual income of at least 35 times the monthly rent,” said Carmin Brittain, director of Long & Foster’s Rental Service Center. This will give you peace of mind that they can afford to rent your property. To ensure you are receiving accurate information, you should ask for copies of their pay stubs and obtain consent to call their employer directly to confirm their employment. Conducting a credit check will allow you to see their bill paying history. “We ensure the applicant has no more than three collections against them, and no judgements, liens or bankruptcies in the last seven years,” adds Brittain. “We also require a minimum credit score of 600.”
Perform a Criminal Background Check: A criminal background check will show both serious and minor offenses from felonies to reckless driving, notes Brittain. Along with a completed application, ask for a valid ID to verify their identity because you will need to provide the tenant’s name and date of birth to run a criminal background check.
Consider the Tenant’s Rental History: Try to talk to at least two of the tenant’s previous landlords. “A previous landlord is the best resource because the person has already moved out, and the landlord will likely give an honest and helpful reference,” suggests Lindsay Curtis of McGrath Real Estate Services, a Long & Foster company. Consider asking the following questions: Did they pay their rent on time? Were they evicted for not paying their rent or for not following the rental agreement? Did they take good care of the property? Did they complain a lot? The answers to these questions should help clarify whether they will make a good tenant for your rental property. If the applicant has a pet, you should get a pet reference, recommends Curtis. Find out from previous landlords if the pet was well-behaved.
Decide on an Applicant: Do not feel obligated to accept an applicant if they did not pass your screening process. If you have decided to accept an applicant, you should notify them immediately, let them ask questions, review the lease and make sure they understand the rental agreement terms. If you have more than one applicant with the same qualifications, consider the terms they are offering. When do they want to move in? How much are they offering to pay? The applicant may offer to pay more to secure the rental property, suggests Brittain. Will they accept a longer term lease? “There will be less wear and tear on your property if you lock someone in longer term,” said Curtis.
Adhere to Fair Housing Laws: If you decide to be a hands-on landlord, it is important to be familiar with and follow fair housing laws. If you choose to work alongside a property management company, you will be required to adhere to fair housing laws. While national fair housing laws are in place, there are also fair housing laws that vary per state and locality. You should reach out to an attorney or real estate management professional if you have questions about fair housing laws.
Working with a property management company will minimize your responsibilities as a landlord and give you more peace of mind. If you are thinking about renting out your home, but aren’t sure you want to do it on your own, feel free to reach out to our team at Long & Foster Property Management or call us at 1-855-869-1107.