3 Steps to Better Resident Screening

3 Steps to Better Resident Screening
By: Nicholas A. Dunlap, CPM

As a landlord, there are few things worse than preparing a unit for rent, marketing it and ultimately renting it to what turns out to be a problem tenant. However, thanks in part to technology and comprehensive criminal record, credit bureau and other such databases, landlords can take simple steps to protect themselves and their investments, before problems arise. Although no screening procedure is 100% fool proof, meaning that even the strongest applicant can become the worst tenant (unfortunately, I have seen this happen on several occasions) take the following 3 steps to ensure you are making the best effort to protect yourself up front.

1. Do not process incomplete applications. Every one of our resident managers knows that an application lacking previous addresses, account numbers, yes/no answers will be returned to them, or will be denied for being incomplete. The reason? When someone shows you who they are the first time, believe it! If you do not follow simple directions such as “fill out the following application in its entirety leaving no blank spaces or sections unacknowledged”, how will you react when we have to post a notice to perform or quit regarding conditions of the lease agreement. NEXT!

2. Conduct a comprehensive background check that includes credit, rental history, bad check and criminal background details. More importantly, develop a policy that allows you to screen effectively and appropriately in accordance with these background checks. As it reads in our rental criteria, we will not rent to those with a history of crimes against persons, property or involving drugs.

3. Equality and consistency are your best friends. Do not stray from your screening requirements and standards. Refrain from making exceptions. Remember, if you do something for Applicant A, you must do the same for Applicant B. Avoid the personal feelings that can sometimes cloud your thought process. Yes, that means you should not rent to someone simply because “they seem like nice people”. Ted Bundy and Jeffrey Dahmer seemed like nice people at one point or another, I’m sure.

All in all, effective resident screening means having a thorough process in place, complete with pre-established criteria. Local associations such as the Apartment Association of Orange County (http://www.aaoc.com/) can assist with conducting a thorough, comprehensive background check. Be sure that you and your staff are consistent in your business practices and you will be fine. If you have any questions or concerns, there are a number of local law firms to contact, including Landlord/Tenant experts Kimball, Tirey & St. John (http://www.kts-law.com).