So you’ve shown the rental property, collected applications, and completed your tenant screening now it’s time to choose the best tenant. When analyzing a pool of applicants for a rental property it helps to quickly sort them into categories based on criteria that you follow for all potential tenants. Following a set criterion will ensure that you are 100% compliant with the fair housing act regulations.
- Not even on a good day category; These are the folks with very poor credit, collections, judgments, no verifiable income, criminal histories, evictions, etc. These are easy decisions to make; we just take our losses with the time and effort showing the property and screening them and move on to the next. It seems that around 35% of applicants fall into this category depending on the quality of the home for rent.
- Marginally qualified category; That means that typically 60% of rental applicants have both positive and negative attributes which have to be carefully considered to determine if they will be successful tenants.
- Dream come true category; These are the tenants that make your life as a property manager or landlord easy. They have great credit, high income, stable employment, no criminal background, and no pets. The only problem with these tenants is that if you don’t approve them quickly they can easily get approved for another property. I would say that these types of applicants are 1 in 50 or 5%.
Because the “marginally qualified” rental applicants make up the majority of the applicant pool making the right call is important. Placing the wrong tenants can be a very costly mistake. The basic considerations that we make when selecting a tenant include;
Income and employment – We require two times the monthly rent for gross monthly income. There are several ways to verify that a prospect does make the money they claim to bring in. If an applicant cannot prove their income then we simply cannot approve them. We require pay stubs, 1099s, W2s, bank statements, etc. as proof of income. We like to see long-term employment as an indicator of stable income. While we ask for contact names and number of employers it can be difficult to verify income with employers. Pay stubs are by far the easiest way to verify income and if the pay stubs do not match the stated income that is a red flag. Any income that can’t be verified is not counted.
Credit history – While we still do a tenant credit check on every applicant, credit scores are not as heavily weighted as they once were. A credit score under 600 used to disqualify an applicant on the spot. The economic crisis the country has faced has modified these criteria. While a short sale/foreclosure can’t be completely overlooked we often discount them a great deal if credit otherwise is pristine. We don’t take into consideration medical bills because they are very common and not necessarily a sign of a bad tenant. Non-payment of utility bills, recent collections, or a judgment/eviction from a previous landlord are automatic disqualifiers. Each credit report is scrutinized in detail because as they say “the devils in the details”.
Criminal and Background Checks – We require that any tenant that resides on our property have a clean criminal and background check. Trust me you don’t want people occupying your rental who have been convicted of robbery or fraud. A conviction for drugs may even be enough to deny an application particularly if it is manufacturing or dealing. Also, of consideration particularly if you are renting in a multiple unit property is a sex offender conviction.
Other Stuff – Other factors that play a roll in the decision making process include; tenancy verification, references, pets, number of occupants, etc.
Using good judgment and looking at all aspects of the application is vitally important to find good tenants. Study the info, follow your criteria and chances are you will have good tenants who treat your property with respect.