If I check references myself, why should I also use a professional screening company?

A landlord’s rental property is a valuable asset and protecting that asset is the primary reason for screening potential new tenants. With the US economy still struggling after the housing market collapse four years ago, a new trend has formed in people renting houses and apartments as opposed to purchasing them. Also, many have been forced to rent due to a foreclosure and their credit may be questionable. This shift has created more business for landlords. Conducting background screens in today’s economy is an absolute necessity for landlords to help them find the best possible applicants to fill their vacancy needs.

A professional screening company will mean that you will be following the Fair Tenant Screening Act, that went into effect June 7th, 2012 as well as getting the following:

1) A professional and thorough credit check

A credit check will show you details about the tenants previous credit history. This history will show collection accounts, charged off accounts, foreclosures, bankruptcy and history of late payments. If a tenant has maxed out all of there credit cards, carried hefty loans, or has several unpaid balances, he or she may have trouble keeping up with rent payments.

2) A check of criminal records and sex offender data base

A criminal background check will give you a detailed report of your tenants criminal past if there is one. Criminal information is a matter of public record and can be obtained by your screening company. A criminal check will turn up both serious and minor offenses. This record will reveal if the tenant has been arrested, convicted of a crime or imprisoned. The screening company will also check the sex offender data base to see if the tenant is a registered sex offender. Keep in mind that those with a criminal record will often try to falsify this information when looking to rent an apartment so make sure that you check a valid ID to verify that they are who they say they are. Civil records will show if a person has filed or is being filed against with any lawsuits, particularly with former landlords.

3) A contact with previous Landlords

A screening company will talk with your prospective tenants prior landlord(s). Some basic questions that will be asked when checking for references are: Did they pay their rent on time? What was the reason for the move? Were they evicted for nonpayment of rent or for breaking the landlord’s rules? Did they give proper notice prior to moving? How did they keep their apartment? Were they clean? Did they cause any damage to the apartment other than normal wear and tear? Would you rent an apartment to this tenant in the future? Your screening company is experienced at getting this information from previous landlords.

If the applicant is a 1st time renter, student or recent graduate, they may not have rental history so the screening company may require a co-signer or a deposit increase.

4) A contact with the current Employer

You definitely want to confirm if the tenant has a reliable and steady source of income before you have them sign a lease agreement. Not all employers will release salary information but they will confirm if the applicant is employed or not. If employer will not release salary information ask for your applicant to provide current pay stub.

Screening information does not guarantee a perfect tenant but it will help you make a better and more informed decision about who your new renter will be. A good screening will help you determine who you want as a tenant and equally as important- Who you don’t want!

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