For many landlords, getting the rent a few days past the first of the month would classify as a major catastrophe. While this is not ideal, it is just a very minor setback in what could happen if you aren’t careful. It is an unfortunate reality, but we live in a society and a time where we have to check every prospective tenant that comes our way. All it takes is one oversight to open the floodgates and set your business back months or even years. Before you rent to anyone, you need to do yourself a favor and spend the time to fully screen every applicant. As a landlord, protect yourself from every angle.
There are many rules regarding discrimination and fair housing that you must be aware of before you start the process. However, you have the right to choose among the strongest available applicant. It is crazy to think, but there are landlords out there who do nothing more than post a sign on their yard or on Craigslist and without much of anything else hand the keys right over. There is certainly something to be said about having security in knowing your property is rented, but not at the expense of taking on a bad tenant.
The first step you need to take is to have your prospective tenants fill out an application and ask for a corresponding photo ID. Your application should have employment information and at least a few references for you to call. The ID can be sent to your phone and verified after you review the application. Some landlords will request to pull their credit or ask for a copy to get a score. Credit score can be a bit misleading at times, especially if one bad account lowers the score. What you can’t do is ask for a thin application and neglect to check references or employment history before you hand over the keys.
There are people that prey on weak landlords. They will bounce around from house to house until they are discovered as a fraud and move onto the next property. More often than not, their references and employment records are fake. When you ask them for the deposit, they offer up a reason why they can’t have the last month and security right now, but promise they will have it before they move in. You can find out previous employment on the credit report and reverse search phone numbers of the references provided. This may all seem like a lot of work and quite unnecessary, but the damage of losing rent for 3-4 months may be too much for your business to overcome.
Being a landlord is all about protecting yourself. This can be accomplished through your lease or with whom you rent to. It is always far easier and much less expensive to go through this process of landing a good tenant than it is to evict a bad one. The application process may be time consuming and boring, but so is the eviction process. Don’t let a bad day or a moment of weakness get you involved with a bad tenant.