One thing we at Sarasota Management and Leasing have learned about tenant screening and performing background checks is that you don’t want to skip it. Many landlords tend to find a prospective tenant and decide to rent to him or her simply based on that person’s appearance and likability. You really need to go deeper and check the person out.
Start by checking credit. There are several credit reporting services that you can use to get an idea of a tenant’s credit situation. You also want to do a full criminal background check. If you put someone in your property who has a criminal record and they commit a crime while living in your house, or they harm a neighbor, you might find yourself on the wrong end of a liability suit.
It is important to check employment credentials as well. You want a tenant who has a stable employment history and has worked at their current job for at least a year. Check their income as well. You want to make sure your tenant can pay the rent on time. You don’t want to rent to someone who will spend 50 percent of his income on housing, or he will have a hard time meeting the rent obligation. At Sarasota Management and Leasing, we require a tenant to have household income that is at least three times the monthly rent. That is our minimum.
Interview previous landlords. Find out if the tenant paid rent on time, if there were any police visits on the house or any complaints from the neighbors. Ask about suspicious behavior, such as whether cars were coming and going at all hours of the day and night. Make sure they took good care of the property. If a tenant is hard on a property, it is going to increase your expenses and reduce your profitability.
We recommend checking other things as well. For example, you can access the sexual predators list, the FBI Most Wanted list and the national terrorist database. There are lots of things you can check to make sure the person you are putting into your property is the best possible tenant. You want someone who will be appreciated by the neighbors, and you want someone who will take care of your house and not be a problem down the road.
Make sure you do not avoid the careful screening of a potential tenant. Don’t take any short cuts, because having a great tenant is essential to having a profitable income property. If you have any questions about this, I invite you to contact me at Sarasota Management and Leasing.