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Beware Tenants Who Will "Take Anything"As a landlord, it’s always nice to deal with friendly, flexible tenants. During the interview process while you’re reviewing applications, it can be something of a relief to have a family come in and tell you they’re happy to do whatever you need them to do because they’ll accept anything. However, it’s important to be wary of a potential tenant that will accept literally anything you have to offer. Why? We’ll explain.

Know The Warning Signs

Before we get into it, we’ll establish that some tenants are simply very amicable and willing to do whatever it takes to make their landlord happy. There’s nothing inherently wrong with this, and such tenants can end up being an excellent fit for your property. That said, when you’re in the process of interviewing someone and they reveal that they will “take anything,” it should raise your suspicions a bit. Someone who’s desperate to get a roof over their head, even if the roof isn’t in especially good repair, must have a reason. That reason is rarely a good indicator.

For example, if you’re interviewing a large family with multiple children who are okay accepting a house with too few bedrooms to meet their needs, inquire about that. They may admit that they actually do need more space, but they’re in a bind and need whatever they can get. Alternately, maybe you’re speaking with an individual who’s willing to accept an apartment that’s dirty or in disrepair if they must. When you hear statements like these, you need to take a closer look at their previous residences, eviction history, and background check. More likely than not, something will jump out at you, like a pervious eviction or missed rental payments.

Why It Pays To Be Picky

While it might be slightly more frustrating in the interim, it’s a good idea to keep an eye out for rental applicants that are a bit pickier. If they have questions about the property or ask you if you’ll make changes or repairs prior to their move in, it indicates that they’re not desperate. They can afford to be picky, which means they’re less likely to have something in their history that’s forcing them to find new housing right away. As always, listen to your gut, but it’s worth noting that reading between the lines can tell you a lot about what sort of tenant you’ll have.

To reiterate, being amicable doesn’t necessarily indicate desperation or a problem in tenant history. That’s why it’s always vital to make sure you’re doing a full screening on every applicant. If anyone raises your suspicions, you can verify your gut feeling through a background check, credit check, or eviction history report.

For help in selecting the right tenants for your properties, we recommend our RentalConnect. RentalConnect offers property owners and landlords a great alternative to the expense of full tenant screening. This service requires no on-site visit, sign-up, or membership fees, making it extra convenient. The $34.95 service fee is paid by the applicant. Available 24/7, RentalConnect is fast, easy, secure, and delivers reports needed to make an informed decision, including a credit report, a national criminal search, and a national eviction search.

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What to Watch for During a Tenant InterviewIn our previous post, we talked about paying attention to the questions your tenants ask and whether they raise any red flags for you. In this post, we’re discussing a similar topic, but this time you’re the one asking the questions. Landlords often interview potential tenants as part of their screening process, which is good business practice. Seeing something on paper isn’t the same as hearing it from a person’s mouth, and there are things that can be revealed during an in-person or even phone interview that you just won’t get from an application alone.

More of What to Watch Out For

To start, you should have a ready list of questions to ask your applicants that will give you the details you need to make a good choice for your property. Some of these questions may include:

  • Where are you currently living and how long have you been there?
  • When do you need to move?
  • Do you have a history of renting and do you have references?
  • Will you be bringing in a pet and do you understand our pet policy?
  • Who is your current employer?
  • What is your estimated monthly income?
  • Is there anything I should be aware of before running your background check?

There are tons of other questions you can ask as well, but these will give you a good baseline. Asking the questions is only one piece of the puzzle, however. The other piece is not only listening to the answers but reading between the lines of the responses.

What does that mean, exactly? When we’re speaking with someone face to face, it’s easier to detect discomfort and potential embellishments. Filling out a form makes it easy to fudge facts a little, but most people aren’t good enough fibbers to make those little lies believable in person. Pay attention to how they answer the question. Are they stumbling over their words often or refusing to answer the question directly? Are they being too vague? Pay attention to body language as well. Looking away while answering a question or nervous fidgeting are warning signs, as is stalling or changing the subject.

It’s entirely possible that some people simply don’t interview well and are acting nervous because they’re just nervous. That’s why the interview is only one part of the tenant screening process. Keep notes so you can refer back to whichever answers stuck out to you and cross-reference them with the screening and credit reports.

For help in selecting the right tenants for your properties, we recommend our RentalConnect. RentalConnect offers property owners and landlords a great alternative to the expense of full tenant screening. This service requires no on-site visit, sign-up, or membership fees, making it extra convenient. The $34.95 service fee is paid by the applicant. Available 24/7, RentalConnect is fast, easy, secure, and delivers reports needed to make an informed decision, including a credit report, a national criminal search, and a national eviction search.

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Tenant Questions That Raise Red FlagsConducting applicant interviews is standard practice for many landlords and property managers. During the interview, you have the opportunity to get a feel for a prospective tenant and learn more about them. This helps you make a more informed decision about who will be the best fit for your property. During this process, you’ll probably ask the tenant if they have any questions of their own for you. It’s a great opportunity for communication and setting expectations early so that you’re both on the same page. It’s the start of a relationship that may continue for years.

Most rental applicants will ask standard questions to get a better feel for you as a landlord or so that they have the information they need. However, occasionally a tenant will ask a question that may raise a red flag. It’s good to know going in which questions you should pay attention to in case they reveal more than the applicant means to let on.

Know What to Watch Out For

One of the biggest red flags during the Q&A session of the interview are questions about your screening process. It’s entirely possible that these questions are innocent, so take this advice with a grain of salt and go with your gut, but often people who press on how you run screenings and which screenings you do are revealing something they’d rather keep hidden.

Some of these questions can include:

  • Do you screen out of state?
  • How high a FICO score do you require?
  • Do you look at eviction records?
  • Do you look at federal records?

These and similar questions can indicate that there’s something that will be revealed in the screening that may affect your decision. Once again, it’s possible that these inquiries are just the applicant’s way of getting an idea of how you do things, but it’s worth looking into. No matter what, you should wait for the screening process to complete and see what it reveals before making your decision. If the applicant inquires about a screening that you don’t do, you may want to place an order for that screening, just in case. Ultimately, tenant screening services are about protecting yourself and your property. It never hurts to do your due diligence.

For help in selecting the right tenants for your properties, we recommend our RentalConnect. RentalConnect offers property owners and landlords a great alternative to the expense of full tenant screening. This service requires no on-site visit, sign-up, or membership fees, making it extra convenient. The $34.95 service fee is paid by the applicant. Available 24/7, RentalConnect is fast, easy, secure, and delivers reports needed to make an informed decision, including a credit report, a national criminal search, and a national eviction search.

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What Tenant Residence History Can Tell LandlordsWhen you start accepting new applications for one of your properties, you’ll undoubtedly be asking your potential tenants for their current address and rental history, if they have one. Landlords and property managers will want to pay attention to the current address especially during their initial screening process. It can tell you a lot about your applicant right away, and you’ll want to do additional research, as well.

Know The Warning Signs

One of the first things to note is whether the applicant is the primary account holder at the residence. They may offer this information upfront or you may have to ask about it. If you discover that they’re living with their parents or at a friend’s place without their name on the lease, take that into serious consideration. This situation isn’t unheard of, especially for younger people. For someone who’s fresh out of high school or college, living with their parents makes financial sense and may have been their best option at the time. Now that they’re venturing out into the working world, they could be ready for the responsibility of their own place and have the income to handle rent. This is where further screening and questions about job status and monthly income are important. Make sure you know the background there.

On the other hand, an older applicant who’s still living at home could be a potential red flag. Again, with the Recession and other factors of the modern world, people are tending to live with their parents longer before venturing out on their own or may have gone through a rocky period that necessitated moving back home. It happens, and it doesn’t necessarily mean they’ll be a poor tenant. However, it’s always worth it to do your due diligence, especially if the person is old enough to be well-established in the working world. Sometimes someone with a rocky eviction history may use a parent or friend’s home address as their residence on an application to obscure that fact.

Get A Complete Picture

Always get a good residential reference and ask about residential history beyond the current residence, if it exists. Parents or good friends are less likely to give you the full truth about a prospective tenant, especially if they weren’t paying rent. Speaking with those references won’t give you a good idea of whether the applicant can make payments on time, and a close relative or friend may fudge the facts a bit to make the applicant look better. It’s better to speak to an unrelated landlord or property manager from a past residence.

Tenant screening services will give you a much more well-rounded portrait of an applicant’s history, including:

  • Past residences
  • Eviction history
  • Criminal reports

It’s well worth your time.

For help in selecting the right tenants for your properties, we recommend our RentalConnect. RentalConnect offers property owners and landlords a great alternative to the expense of full tenant screening. This service requires no on-site visit, sign-up, or membership fees, making it extra convenient. The $34.95 service fee is paid by the applicant. Available 24/7, RentalConnect is fast, easy, secure, and delivers reports needed to make an informed decision, including a credit report, a national criminal search, and a national eviction search.

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How to Spot a Potential Problem TenantImagine the following scenario: you’ve just placed an advertisement for your property and are actively looking for tenants. A prospective tenant pulls up to the property to apply and you notice that they’re driving a moving van or that their vehicle is packed full of stuff, almost as if they’re traveling with their home on their back, so to speak. When you ask when they’re hoping to move in, they tell you they need a place to live immediately.

What does this tell you?

Right away, your “spider sense” should be tingling. If someone’s had to pack up their entire life into a truck and they need immediate housing, it indicates that they had to leave their last residence suddenly. This could mean a number of different things. They may have been evicted or forced to vacate by the authorities. It could indicate a serious lack of pre-planning, like that they let their lease lapse without finding a new residence with enough lead time to move in. They may have missed the deadline to let their previous landlord know they wanted to renew. As you can see, there are many explanations, and not many of them are good.

It’s entirely possible that a tenant had to vacate quickly through no fault of their own. It does happen. This is why it’s so important to always do your due diligence as a landlord and use a tenant screening service so you can make a good decision for your property. A credit screening and eviction history will show you patterns in an applicant’s behavior, such as whether they have difficulty making payments on time or if they have evictions on record. Both screenings offer good insight into whether they’ll be able to handle the responsibility of being your tenant.

Screening services are easier than every to obtain and one of the most effective ways to protect your property and your business. They give you all the information you need to make a good decision about your tenants. Always check your local laws and regulations for which screenings you can use in tenant selection because some cities don’t allow certain information to be used by landlords, such as criminal background checks.

For help in selecting the right tenants for your properties, we recommend our RentalConnect. RentalConnect offers property owners and landlords a great alternative to the expense of full tenant screening. This service requires no on-site visit, sign-up, or membership fees, making it extra convenient. The $34.95 service fee is paid by the applicant. Available 24/7, RentalConnect is fast, easy, secure, and delivers reports needed to make an informed decision, including a credit report, a national criminal search, and a national eviction search.

Posted by & filed under Credit Score, Rentals.

How Do You Get an Apartment with Bad Credit?Renting an apartment with bad credit is difficult but not impossible. To get an apartment with poor credit, you need to first prove that you can afford the rental and make payments on time. Job stability is a major factor in whether a landlord will consider your application further, so be sure to show that you’re making a steady income at work and preferably that you’ve been there at least a year. You can also show that you have money to cover several months’ rent in savings, or that you have a co-signer who will take responsibility for rent if you’re unable to do so.

It’s worth noting that there’s not just “good” credit or “bad” credit.

There’s a range, from excellent or perfect credit scores all the way down to very bad credit scores, with the vast majority of people falling somewhere in the “fair” or “good” credit range. There have also been some fairly recent changes in the way credit bureaus are issuing their scores (VantageScore vs FICO Score) and landlords are taking this into account. The new scoring system only considers primary account holders and issues a harder impact on individuals who make multiple credit inquiries in a short period of time, so scores may skew lower than a person’s credit history indicates. They will eventually even out over time.

For people with little or no credit and no rental history who are looking to rent their first apartment, it’s going to be important to illustrate that you have the required income and are otherwise reliable. If possible, bring paperwork that shows you can make payments on time, such as insurance payments or car payments. If you can rent with a roommate first, do so, but choose roommates wisely.

Most landlords will run some sort of tenant screening via their rental application and include an application fee to cover the costs. This is one of the first steps toward showing that you’re serious about renting the place. Paying the fee and turning the application in promptly helps make the case that you’re reliable. You can also offer to pay a certain amount of rent up front to make yourself more appealing.

Avoid telling mistruths about your income or credit history. Honesty is the best policy, especially when a simple internet search can uncover most fibs. Tell the landlord about the steps you’re taking to improve your credit score and the progress you’ve made so far.

Show how responsible you can be, do what you can to answer the landlord’s questions, and make sure you’re applying to rentals you can afford. Good communication goes a long way!

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Do all Landlords Do Credit Checks?Most landlords will do credit checks on perspective tenants, though some may choose not to. Anyone who’s trying to protect their income will likely want to make sure the person they’re renting their property to has a good history of making payments on time. If you’re concerned about a less-than-perfect score, you don’t necessarily have to worry – landlords aren’t just looking for a high credit score.

What are landlords looking for?

There are different types of credit reports and the majority of landlords will include some type of credit check with their application process. Rental applicants are usually expected to pay this fee, which may also include a background check and eviction history. There are different regulations in every state about how much a landlord or property manager can charge for this fee, so be sure to check your local stipulations. Any credit screening or background check will require your signed consent.

A lot depends on the type of property you’re trying to rent.

Apartments in low-income areas may qualify as Section 8 housing, which won’t put weight on credit checks since it involves a voucher program to assist renters in paying for their housing. On the other hand, the owner of a nice condo in a highly desired area with higher rent will probably want to make sure their prospective tenant has a good credit score and history of paying on time. This is so they can protect themselves and their property from the possibility of a non-paying tenant or someone who can’t properly afford the property. To avoid situations where your credit score may be a detriment, it’s a good idea to choose properties that are within your budget and illustrate your history of paying rent on time.

Remember, your credit score doesn’t have to be excellent to be considered for the rental you want. Landlords also consider employment history, income, job stability, eviction history, criminal history, and a number of other factors. Many prefer someone with decent credit and a reliable job over someone with stellar credit and a spotty employment history. If you have concerns, you can always ask what they need from you!

Posted by & filed under Background Check, Property Management, Tenant Screening.

Background Check for an ApartmentA background check for an apartment can include a national criminal background check, credit report, eviction history, and employment history. Specific landlords or property managers may choose to run one or all of these screenings and applicants will need to give signed consent to have a background check performed. Many apartment complexes require tenant screening services for an application to be considered. Applicants are generally expected to pay an application fee to cover the cost of the background check.

How Background Checks Benefit You

The reason landlords and property managers choose to run tenant screenings is to protect their property and their business. Background checks and application fees are a method of narrowing the applicant field so that they only receive serious applicants who are less likely to have something questionable come up during their screening. However, every apartment is different, and some property managers may choose to only run a pass/fail credit report or check criminal history. Others may choose not to use screening services at all.

Laws and rental regulations vary by state.

It’s important to check your local regulations to make sure everything is up to snuff. Background checks and screenings are allowed for rentals, but some states have regulations regarding how much an applicant can be charged. If you have questions about anything, you should consult professional legal counsel with experience in your area.

Most people trying to rent an apartment are more concerned about the credit report than anything else. Can a bad credit score affect your ability to rent? It can, but many apartment complexes take multiple factors into account while reviewing your credit score, such as new VantageScore numbers, which are different from the old FICO Score numbers, or whether you’ve recently applied for a loan or new credit cards. They may look for patterns in your credit history, noting whether you’re generally good with payments or have a complicated financial history. If your score took a hit due to job loss or the recession, anyone reviewing your credit report should be able to tell and consider that accordingly.

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Tenant Screening Services in OregonUsing tenant screening services in Oregon will help you navigate the state’s distinct laws and regulations so that you can find the best tenant matches for your properties. Many states have unique regulations for how you can approach screening and rental applications, which we’ll go over below.

In Oregon, here’s what you should keep in mind for tenant screening:

  1. Unlike other states, there’s no security deposit limit
  2. You are not required to refund application fees
  3. There’s no set maximum limit for application fees

These are important distinctions to make if you’ve been operating in other states with different regulations. In California, for example, you are not allowed to charge applicants more than $47.72 for tenant screening fees as of 2017. This stipulation is placed to protect prospective tenants from exploitative practices. However, in Oregon, there’s no such limit in place.

What You Should Consider

Before you hike up your rates accordingly, it’s prudent to consider how it will affect your applicant pool. If an application fee is too steep, people will shy away from applying at all. The fee shouldn’t be prohibitively expensive for the area you’re renting in, so be sure to do some research into other local properties to see what their practices are and which you might like to replicate. The most successful landlords and property managers have found the right balance between covering their fees and attracting the sort of applicants they want for their property.

Ideally, you shouldn’t overcharge for application fees. When you use tenant screening services, you should be able to find a range of packages to suit your needs, from a simple pass/fail credit check to a full background check and credit screening. When you use services through TSCI, Inc., you can have applicants apply through an online portal and pay the screening fee automatically. It’s simple and effective, giving you the information you need without the hassle of filing paperwork. You received the results through the same portal.

One last important note to make when you use tenant screening services is that you must have the signed consent of every applicant before you can run a background check in Oregon. Be sure to check with your own legal counsel to ensure you’re following the letter of the law, and be sure to work with someone who has experience with Oregon tenant law.

For your convenience, we recommend our RentalConnect program, which offers property owners and landlords a great alternative to the expense of full tenant screening. This service requires no on-site visit, sign-up, or membership fees, making it extra convenient. The $34.95 service fee is paid by the applicant. Available 24/7, RentalConnect is fast, easy, secure, and delivers reports needed to make an informed decision, including a credit report, a national criminal search, and a national eviction search. Reach out to us for more details!

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Tenant Screening ServicesMost landlords and property managers are well aware that tenant and rental laws vary state by state, and even city by city. California is especially well-known for having specific regulations for tenant screening services. As always, we highly recommend consulting with your own legal counsel when you’re considering a California rental. In this post, we’ll outline some important information for you, as well. We encourage doing your own research and familiarizing yourself with your area’s regulations.

What are tenant screening services?

First, let’s go over what tenant screening services are. These services are any available screenings that give you information about prospective tenants so you can make a better decision about who to place in your properties. They may include credit reports, background checks, criminal history, eviction history, employment history, and similar information. With these details, you can make an informed decision about the sort of person you’ll be placing in your rental. Screening reports help landlords verify details on rental applications and ensure a potential tenant can afford rental costs.

In California, there are certain regulations to be aware of in relation to these tenant screening services. The amount you charge for an application fee should not exceed your own out-of-pocket expenses, and it should never exceed $49.50. This is to prevent landlords from overcharging applicants and pocketing the extra. Also, if you request a credit check, be aware that you are required to provide a copy of the report to your tenant if they ask for it.

Reports Paid by the Applicant

When selecting a screening service, consider what your own expenses will be and whether you’d like to charge that expense to the tenant as an application fee. Some services, such as our own here at Tenant Screening Center, Inc., offer specific programs that charge a reasonable fee for a variety of reports. These reports are paid for by the applicant directly and can be accessed through an online portal. This makes the entire process very convenient for all involved parties. Landlords don’t have to worry about reimbursement or keeping everything in the office, and applicants can apply from wherever’s most convenient for them.

Most importantly, it’s necessary to be familiar with your responsibilities as a landlord or property manager and stay on top of any changes to local rental law. Have your attorney review all of the documents and rental agreements you’re using to make sure they’re all written according to the law and will keep you and your business protected. In order to run a background check on a prospective renter, you must have their signed consent. Consider whether you’ll refund the application deposit, and if not, note clearly in the application that the fee is non-refundable.

It’s a good idea to consider which screening service you’ll use, how much you believe the tenants in your area will spend on an application fee, and which reports will be most valuable to you. From there, you can determine which service is the best fit for your needs.

We recommend our RentalConnect program, which offers property owners and landlords a great alternative to the expense of full tenant screening. This service requires no on-site visit, sign-up, or membership fees, making it extra convenient. The $34.95 service fee is paid by the applicant. Available 24/7, RentalConnect is fast, easy, secure, and delivers reports needed to make an informed decision, including a credit report, a national criminal search, and a national eviction search. Reach out to us for more details!