Posted by & filed under Tenant Screening.

Real estate investment, Real estate value

As experienced landlords know, tenants can have a huge impact on your business. Responsible tenants will pay their rent on time, minimize wear and tear, and typically treat your property like it was their own. Bad tenants, on the other hand, can be costly in more ways than one. They may consistently pay their rent late, cause expensive property damage, cause trouble with other tenants, and generally be more trouble than they’re worth.

Needless to say, good tenants are extremely valuable in the rental housing industry; it truly pays to take the time and energy to find them. One bad tenant could cause problems for months until the lease ends or an eviction judgment is made, so it’s best to avoid them whenever you can. Read on to find out what makes a tenant a good, reliable candidate for your property.

Please note that this is not intended as legal advice, but for information purposes only. Laws may vary depending on your location.

Qualities of Good Tenants

  • A Detailed Application

A good tenant will make a point to make sure their application is completely filled out. They’ll provide detailed information on everything you ask for, including the names of references and their contact information. You should have no trouble being able to tell that they’re able to meet their rent payments and take good care of your property.

  • A Good Tenancy Record

The tenant should have good references from their previous landlord. You can also check to make sure they’re not listed on a tenancy database. These databases are used by landlords and property managers who have had problems with tenants, such as property damage or falling behind on their rent.

  • Creditworthy

A good credit score indicates the tenant pays their bills on time; it also shows you how much debt they have and what type of debt it is. Essentially, a good credit score shows that the tenant is financially responsible—which also means they’re likely to be responsible when it comes to paying rent.

  • Easy to Communicate With

It shouldn’t be a chore to communicate with your tenants. Good tenants will be respectful, friendly, and easy to communicate with. They should respond to your calls and messages within a reasonable amount of time and you should make a point to do the same.

  • Pays Rent—On Time

A good tenant never defaults on their rent; they make sure to pay it and pay it on time. To help make on-time payments easy, consider offering online rent payments. If a situation comes up where the rent will be late, or the property has become unaffordable, they’ll communicate this clearly and honestly.

  • Accommodating for Property Access

Tenants have a legal right to privacy, but there are still times when it’s necessary to visit the property for inspections, repairs, or general maintenance. A good tenant understands this and will have no problem allowing you to access the property with the right amount of notice.

  • Cares About the Property

A good tenant will care about the property and try to reduce the amount of wear and tear they add to it—and avoid causing property damage. They’ll care about where they live and it will show through their actions and tidiness.

  • Notifies You of Maintenance Issues ASAP

Part of caring about where you live involves keeping the property well-maintained. Good tenants will let you know as soon as a maintenance issue needs attention. Not only does this show respect for your property, but it also can end up saving you money—after all, a small leak can turn into an expensive problem very quickly!

  • Drama-Free

Some tenants live for drama; they play the victim and offer excuse after excuse for why they haven’t paid their rent, maintained the yard, etc. Fortunately, they often have a history of late payments and evictions, so they’re not hard to spot. Good tenants will take responsibility for their actions and won’t bother you with unnecessary details about their lives.

  • Follows the Lease or Rental Agreement

Good tenants generally want to live in a rental long-term, so they’ll make a point to follow the lease or rental agreement to the letter. They’ll adhere to rules about pets and smoking, pay their rent on time, and will avoid having parties or gatherings that disturb the other tenants and neighbors.

  • Renews Their Lease

Although sometimes necessary, turnover is expensive and time-consuming for landlords and property managers. An ideal tenant will have all of the qualities listed above, along with a desire to live at the same rental for many years.

Tenant Screening: An Essential Step for Finding Good Tenants

There are many steps to take to find a good tenant: preparing the rental, advertising, showing the rental, interviewing applicants, and selecting a tenant. One of the most essential steps you can take is to make sure to screen qualified applicants. Although a potential tenant may have many of the qualities listed here, tenant screening will give you invaluable insight into whether they’ll be a responsible renter. Sign up for free today to get started on making the most informed decisions for your property!

Posted by & filed under Eviction.

Eviction and mortgage debt, foreclosure or difficulty to payback bank mortgage loan concept, bankruptcy man and family fighting to hold back their house with big legal hand evict it by law. Property

Evictions aren’t pleasant—for landlords or tenants. However, knowing what to do after you evict a tenant can make the entire process easier and less stressful. Once you’ve regained possession of your property, it’s invaluable to have a defined course of action. Here are some steps to take to get your rental ready for the next tenant.

Please note this is not intended as legal advice, but for information only. Laws may vary depending on your location.

5 Steps to Get Your Rental Property Ready for the Next Tenant

  1. Change the locks

As soon as you have possession of your property, change the locks. Even if the tenant handed over the keys, there’s really no way to know whether they’ve made copies—or given a set of keys to someone else. It’s not worth risking squatting or property damage, so this should be your first step.

  1. Conduct a walkthrough inspection

Once you’ve secured your rental, it’s time to conduct an inspection. Bring a copy of your walkthrough list and move-in inspection so you can easily repair the condition of the property before the tenant moved in and after the eviction. If there’s any damage, make sure to document it with photos.

It’s not uncommon for tenants to cause property damage after they’ve lost the eviction case. However, there are ways you can recover the costs of the damages. Some areas you may want to pay particularly close attention to include:

  • Checking for mold, especially in the kitchen and bathroom(s)
  • Holes in the walls
  • The water heater and other appliances
  • Wear and tear on the carpet or flooring
  • Leaks in the kitchen and bathroom
  • Areas that need to be repainted
  1. File a small claims case

If the tenant caused a significant amount of damage to the property, you have the option of filing a small claims case to collect the damages.

  1. Start preparing the rental

Once you’ve assessed the damages, it’s time to get your rental ready for the next tenant. If you only have to worry about normal wear and tear, this shouldn’t be any different from when a typical tenant moves out—and you should already have a system in place. If the property was severely damaged or vandalized by the evicted tenant, you’ll have to work with a contractor to perform the necessary repairs. In some cases, you may want to consider remodeling.

  1. Reassess your rental process and make any necessary changes

After you’ve put your rental back on the market, take some time to think about the evicted tenant. Can you pinpoint anything you overlooked during the application or screening process? Is there anything you could do differently? Take a look at your lease, too. Are there any unclear clauses or different policies you’d like to implement? Are there any loopholes for tenants to take advantage of? Make sure to address any weak areas in your rental process before selecting a new tenant.

How to Prevent Evictions

Evictions can be expensive, time-consuming, and stressful. Although there are times when evicting a tenant is necessary, it’s best to try to avoid it altogether. It’s easier to reject a potential tenant during the application process than it is to remove an established tenant.

Fortunately, there are several steps you can take to protect yourself and your property:

  • Prioritize tenant screening. Interview tenants during the application process and be sure to run a credit and eviction check, as well as tenant verification. If the applicant doesn’t fill out the application all the way or balks at the idea of tenant screening reports, it’s a red flag.
  • Develop good relationships with your tenants. Think of your tenants like customers—because they essentially are. Having a good relationship with them will increase the chances that they’ll treat your property with respect. Make sure it’s easy for them to communicate with you and respond to questions, concerns, and maintenance or repair requests as quickly as possible.
  • Keep your property maintained. When your property is well-maintained, it sends a message to your tenants that you care about their living environment—which, in turn, increases the likelihood that they’ll be respectful of it. A well-maintained rental will also attract better tenants.

Protect Your Investment with Tenant Screening Services

Since 1985, Tenant Screening Center has provided thorough, accurate tenant screening services for landlords and property managers across the nation. Our reports can be found online, 24/7, and the cost is deferred to the applicant. Sign up today for free and get started on protecting your investment.

Even with the most stringent screening methods in place, you may still find yourself needing to evict a tenant. After all, circumstances can change. Following a set process, like the one outlined above, can help you get back on track as soon as possible.

Posted by & filed under Rentals.

Night Time Police Violent Crime Intervention. Police Vehicles with Flashing Lights.

All tenants have the legal right to privacy; as a landlord or property manager, this means you’re required to give up some of your rights to the property when it’s occupied by a tenant. For example, you must provide adequate notice before conducting an inspection, changing the locks, or other activities that could somehow violate the tenant’s right to privacy. As a rental housing professional, it’s important to know when it’s legally appropriate to access the property.

However, what should you do if the police request access to your rental? Here’s a short guide to help you understand your rights and the rights of your tenants in this situation. Please note that this is not intended as legal advice, but for information only.  Laws may vary depending on your location.

Can Landlords or Property Managers Allow Police Searches at Their Properties?

The police may want to search a property for a variety of reasons: they could be looking for a suspect, acting on a tip, looking for drugs, or following a lead on an investigation. However, to be able to search a property legally, whether it’s occupied by a tenant or a homeowner, the police are required to get a search warrant that’s signed by a judge.

In the end, whether the police have permission from the landlord isn’t important; it’s whether the police have a warrant. There are three scenarios when police can conduct a search on a rental property:

  1. If the current tenant provides consent.
  2. If the police have a search warrant signed by a judge.
  3. If the police believe there’s imminent danger, such as hearing gunshots inside the home or calls for help.

If the tenant doesn’t allow the police to enter the residence, they can only enter if they have a warrant. What can be tricky for rental housing professionals, though, is determining their role when it comes to allowing the police access to the rental property.

Essentially, landlords and property managers can’t give consent to the police to search a rental property as long as it’s occupied—that permission can only be granted by the tenant unless a search warrant has been issued. Once the police have a signed search warrant, the landlord is obligated to allow them to enter the property, regardless of whether the tenant is home.

As the Landlord or Property Manager, Can You Search a Rental Property?

The law clearly states tenants have a right to privacy—but are landlords and property managers allowed to search a rental property? The answer depends on why you’re accessing the property, how often, and the state your property is located. For example, every state (except Arkansas) either has no statute or allows rental housing professionals to enter rental properties in an emergency.

If you need to perform maintenance, you’ll need to provide proper written notice. Rental housing professionals are also required by law to enter the apartment if there’s an emergency. Although it may seem like a police request to enter the property would be an emergency, a search warrant is still required.

Some examples of situations that would be legally considered an emergency include water or gas leaks, fires, or other situations where the property would be damaged if the issue isn’t addressed as soon as possible. Since a police search doesn’t fit into that category, it would be against the law for a landlord to grant police access without a warrant.

One loophole to this is if the tenant has a roommate. If the tenant’s spouse or roommate grants permission for a police search, the police can enter the home and search common areas, like the bathroom or living room. They can’t, however, search private areas (like the tenant’s bedroom) without the tenant’s permission or a search warrant.

Understanding Your Legal Obligations

Just as there are legal ways for landlords and property managers to gain access to a rental property, there are legal steps the police must take as well if they want to conduct a search. Although it may seem necessary to cooperate with police if they request a search, granting them access to the property without a signed search warrant is against the law without the tenant’s consent. If you need to access the property for any reason, make sure you’re well-versed in all applicable laws and provide the tenant with proper notice.

While there’s no surefire way to prevent criminal activity or other circumstances that would require a police search, tenant screening can help reduce the risk and help you find responsible, reliable tenants. With screening packages available for residential and commercial properties, TSCI makes it easy for you to find tenants with a solid rental history. Sign up for free today or contact us at (800) 523-2381.

Posted by & filed under Property Management.

Replacing the battery in a smoke alarm

Did you know cooking is the leading cause of apartment fires and fire-related injuries? Nearly half of all home fires start in the kitchen, resulting in approximately 10% of residential fire deaths in the United States. Apartment fires, whether caused by cooking or an electrical fault, can spread rapidly and put the lives of other residents in danger; 30 seconds is all it takes for a small flame to quickly turn into a large blaze.

While fire prevention generally depends on the actions of tenants, the responsibility ultimately rests on the landlord or property manager. Fortunately, there are several steps you can take to be proactive, including educating your tenants on how to prevent fires, keeping up with routine maintenance, and installing fire extinguishers and sprinkler systems. To help keep your properties as fire-free as possible, here are some helpful tips to follow. Please keep in mind that this is not intended as legal advice, but for information only. Laws may vary depending on your location.

The Most Common Causes of Apartment Fires

One of the first steps in preventing apartment fires is to understand what typically causes them. Here are some of the most common culprits:

  • Cookers and stovetops
  • Heating equipment, such as furnaces, clogged chimneys, heaters, and fireplaces
  • Candles
  • Barbecue grills
  • Smoking

Fire Prevention Tips

Discuss the house rules

If you don’t have a section on fire prevention house rules and tips in your lease or rental agreement, consider adding one and make following them a condition of living on the property. To be sure everyone is on the same page, explain all rules verbally and have the tenant sign or initial the section. Here are a few examples of things you might want to include:

  • Instruct tenants not to leave any cooking food unattended
  • Remind tenants not to leave lit candles unattended, or go a step further and implement a no-candle policy
  • Caution tenants not to leave children unattended or to cook unsupervised
  • Include a clearly defined no-smoking policy
  • Grills should be kept at least 10 feet away from the home or overhangs; they should also never be used on balconies or left unattended
  • Remind tenants to avoid overloading outlets with adapters or using extension cords as a permanent source of power (especially under rugs or carpet!)

Although many of these things seem common sense, don’t assume your tenants already know.

Install smoke detectors in every room and test them regularly

Smoke detectors are one of the most essential tools in fire prevention. Each room should be equipped with a functioning smoke alarm that’s tested regularly. The batteries should also be replaced every six months; the alarms themselves should be replaced at least once every ten years.

Perform regular fire-safety checks

Set up a schedule to conduct regular fire-safety checks. This is a good time to test smoke alarms and replace batteries, making sure dry brush or shrubbery near the building is cleared away, and that emergency exits (like windows) are easily accessible.

Create a fire escape plan

Knowing how to escape a multifamily property in the event of a fire is crucial to the safety of all residents. Create an escape plan that’s posted in every unit showing tenants how to get to the nearest exit safely and quickly. This notice should also include your contact info and that of emergency services. Discuss the plan with each tenant and schedule fire drills occasionally to practice evacuating. If you have a particularly large multifamily complex, you may also want to consider adding signage showing the quickest escape routes.

Keep up to date on repairs and maintenance

Regular maintenance is one of the best ways to prevent fires at your properties. Perform regular inspections of electrical lines, keeping an eye out for any that look frayed, burned, or otherwise damaged; if you find anything that looks like it could cause a spark, replace the wiring right away. Clean chimneys and have your heaters and other appliances serviced regularly.

Encourage tenants to report issues

Encourage tenants to let you know if they see any issues that could cause a fire. This could be anything from other tenants grilling too close to the unit to dry, flammable landscaping around the building.

Ensure each kitchen has a fire extinguisher

Some ordinances require landlords and property managers to install and regularly inspect fire extinguishers. Regardless of whether this applies to your property, every kitchen should be equipped with a working fire extinguisher. In addition, take the time to explain to tenants how to use them; there are several operating methods available and not knowing how to use the extinguisher properly could put tenants at risk of greater harm during a fire.

Install a sprinkler system

Depending on the age of your property and where it’s located, local codes and laws may require you to have a sprinkler system. Even if it’s not required, sprinklers provide valuable protection against fires. It’s estimated up to 80-90% of home fires could be put out with a single sprinkler before the fire department has time to arrive.

Document your fire prevention methods

When it comes to extensive property damage, fires are at the top of the list. Protect yourself by documenting all the fire prevention methods you’ve put in place.

Check your local fire regulations

Fire regulations for rental properties can vary from one city or county to the next. For example, one city may require smoke detectors in every room, while another may only require them in the kitchen and bedroom. For this reason, landlords and property managers need to know the regulations for the area their properties are located. When in doubt, check with a local fire inspector.

In general, landlords and property managers are required to ensure their properties meet all applicable building codes and that there are fire-escape routes available. They’re also obligated to:

  • Repair structural elements
  • Create a fire-prevention and evacuation strategy
  • Keep all entries and exits free of debris and obstacles
  • Respond to repair requests in a timely fashion
  • Conduct fire and safety checks regularly

Apartment fires can have a devastating effect on tenants and rental property professionals alike. Beyond dealing with property damage, landlords and property managers may find themselves liable if they haven’t taken the proper preventive measures. Protect yourself and your property by taking every step possible to reduce the risk.

Posted by & filed under Property Management.

If you’re a busy landlord, you may be tempted to let your accounting fall by the wayside—but did you know that 82% of businesses fail because they don’t manage their cash flow well? Although bookkeeping tends to take the back burner, it’s crucial for the success of your business. Fortunately, setting up an efficient accounting system isn’t hard. Here are some accounting basics and simple tips to help you get started. Please note that this is not intended as legal advice but for information only. Laws may vary depending on your location.

The Importance of Bookkeeping & Accounting

Bookkeeping and accounting often get conflated as the same thing, but they’re actually interrelated. Bookkeeping refers to the recording of an individual or company’s financial transactions. These records can then be used to analyze their financial performance—known as accounting. Staying on top of your bookkeeping is important because it allows you to answer questions like, which of my properties is most profitable? Or conversely, which of my properties is eating away at my profits?

Bookkeeping & Accounting Tips

Here are some basic tips to keep in mind when developing a system for your bookkeeping and accounting:

Keep personal and business accounts separate

Keeping your personal and business accounts separate is one of the first steps for a successful business. This includes checking and savings accounts, credit cards, and debit cards. By keeping everything separate, you can ensure that income and expenses for your business don’t get mixed up with your personal financial affairs. Additionally, if you only have a business checking account, consider opening a savings account, too. This can be used for future rental property expenses like vacancies, renovations or upgrades, and holding security deposits.

Open separate accounts for each property

As your business grows, consider opening a separate account for each rental you own. This will keep expenses for each property separate and allow you to better analyze the financial data for each of them. You’ll be able to see which properties are bringing in the best ROI and which are eating away at your profits. It will also make everything easier when it comes to filing taxes.

Track your expenses

Once you’ve set up individual accounts for your properties, you’ll be able to better track expenses for each of them. This can be done through expense worksheets or by using rental property accounting software. Find a reliable system that works for you and your business and make a point to track all cash inflow and outflow for each of the properties and your business as a whole.

Choose cash basis or accrual basis accounting

Another step you’ll need to take to set up your expense tracking is to decide whether to use the cash or accrual method of accounting. If you’d prefer to log income and expenses when they hit your account, you’ll want to choose cash basis. If you’d prefer to record income and expenses as they occur, you should use the accrual method. Many landlords prefer to use cash basis as it’s more straightforward, but accrual basis can provide better insights on income and expenses over time. Cash basis will allow you to see exactly how much money you have in an account at any given moment. Both methods have their pros and cons, so you’ll need to decide which one works best for you. The most important thing is to stick with one accounting method once you’ve made a decision.

Digitize your accounting

It’s strongly recommended to digitize all your accounting documents, including scanning receipts and invoices or investing in accounting software that can keep all your documentation in one place. This will help keep your office decluttered and make it easy to stay on top of everything.

Automate your accounting tasks

Finding ways to automate your accounting will make your business run more efficiently, so really, anything that can be automated should be. Consider automating things like automatic payments, withdrawals, and reminders. Not only will this save you time, but it will also help make your accounting easier and more accurate.

Be prepared for the future

An essential part of rental property accounting is using past data to create future expense forecasts. Using this data, you can set aside a percentage of your rental income savings each month so you can be prepared for unexpected expenses or fluctuations in cash flow. The longer you’re in business and tracking your financial data, the more accurate your forecasts will be.

Understand the applicable tax forms

It’s a good idea to take some time to understand applicable tax forms as soon as you start your business. This will make your bookkeeping easier and more accurate, especially if you have employees. Make sure you know which forms are needed and what they’re used for—and keep in mind that filing forms incorrectly can be an expensive mistake. You may also want to consider talking to a tax professional.

Hire a CPA

Working with a certified public accountant (CPA) is an excellent way to safeguard your business. They can advise you on how to implement effective accounting systems, educate you on best practices, help you analyze the performance of your business, and assist you with filing taxes.

Rental Property Bookkeeping & Accounting: Valuable Benefits for Any Landlord

Rental property bookkeeping and accounting can seem overwhelming at first, but when done correctly and consistently, they offer valuable benefits for any landlord. Having a good system in place can help protect you from fraud and debt, allow you to forecast future expenses and identify which properties are most profitable, and save you time and energy come tax season. Over time, you can also use bookkeeping and accounting to fine-tune your operations.

In addition to accounting, you should also make sure you have a good system in place for other processes, including tenant screening. Tenant Screening Center makes this easy, with online access to our tenant screening services available 24/7. Our reports are hassle-free, easy to use, and contain essential information for any landlord interested in finding the best tenants for their properties. Even better, the cost is deferred to the applicant, reducing your workload and expenses! Order your tenant screening reports today, or feel free to reach out to us at any time.

Posted by & filed under Rental Housing.

Conceptual triangular hazard road sign against a stormy sky saying fraud alert

Tenant application fraud has always been a problem in the rental housing industry, but it’s been on the rise since the start of the pandemic. One survey conducted in 2021 found that 55% of property managers experienced rental application fraud every few months, with 15% dealing with multiple fraudulent applications each month. To help you combat fraudulent applications, here are some tips on what to look for. Please note this is not intended as legal advice but for information only. Laws may vary depending on your location.

What is Rental Application Fraud?

Rental application fraud is essentially lying on the rental application. Mistakes or forgotten details are bound to happen occasionally, but rental application fraud refers to clear and purposeful misrepresentation of the facts. Although some of this fraud is committed by “professional tenants,” the availability of high-quality digital cameras, scanners, and photo editing software has made it possible for the average applicant to make themselves seem like a more appealing candidate.

There tend to be two types of rental application fraud:

  • The applicant provides fraudulent information to make it seem like they can pay rent
  • The applicant provides fraudulent information to hide the applicant’s mismanagement of finances

When an applicant is trying to make it seem like they can pay rent, they’ll generally submit falsified employment records, pay stubs, bank statements, or other documents that improve the perception of their monthly cash flow and assets. If they’re trying to hide evidence of financial mismanagement, they may resort to a form of identity fraud.

How to Protect Yourself from Rental Application Fraud

Here are some questions to ask yourself while looking for signs of fraud:

  1. Does the name on the document match the applicant’s government-issued ID?
  2. Does the income statement look accurate?
  3. Is the source of income a legal and legitimate business entity? For example, can you verify the person works there by calling or visiting the company?
  4. Do the documents appear to be real? Are there any incidences of mismatched font, letters swapped for numbers, or other inconsistencies on paystubs or other documents that a professional accountant wouldn’t make?
  5. Are the references provided legitimate? References can often be faked by friends and family. One way to check if they’re legitimate is to look up whether the name given on the application matches other information you find online.
  6. Is the applicant who they claim to be? Can they provide information that only they would know, such as the length of time they lived at their last address?
  7. Is your applicant a real person? If multiple things don’t add up, they may be using a false identity.

One of the best steps to take to protect yourself from rental application fraud is tenant screening. Get a background check, credit check, tenant verification, criminal check, and eviction history from Tenant Screening Center and cross-check this information with the rental application. This eliminates the possibility of the applicant digitally modifying documents in their favor.

Our comprehensive tenant screening and tenant verification reports are available to landlords and property managers throughout the U.S. They’re available online, 24/7, so you can order screenings at your convenience. In addition to traditional screenings, we also offer RentalConnect for landlords. With RentalConnect, there are no onsite visits, sign-ups, or membership fees, and the cost of the reports is deferred to the applicant. For more information, visit our services page or feel free to reach out to us with any questions you might have.

Posted by & filed under Uncategorized.

estate agent giving house keys to woman and sign agreement in office

Everyone wants a tenant who pays their rent on time and is respectful of the rental property—but sometimes you might need to go through several applicants before you find the right fit. Although tenant screening is the best way to quickly eliminate problematic applicants, there are some red flags that can also help you avoid choosing a bad tenant. Here are ten things you should keep an eye out for during the application process. Please note this is not intended as legal advice, but for information only. Laws may vary depending on your location.

  1. Not Enough Income

It may feel invasive to ask applicants for proof of income, but it’s necessary to ensure they make enough money to pay rent consistently and on time. Renting to someone who doesn’t have enough income is a recipe for disaster—eventually, you might have to deal with nonpayment issues or eviction. Ideally, a tenant should make 2.5 to 3 times the cost of the rent.

  1. The Applicant is Currently Unemployed

Although you may be tempted to help someone who’s down on their luck, an applicant without a job won’t be able to pay rent. Even if they say they’re working on getting a job, you risk dealing with nonpayment issues if you rent to them.

  1. A Bad Credit Score

A bad credit score is a definite red flag. First, it shows that the applicant defaulted on their debt or rent payments at some point. It also indicates they may default again on future payments. However, if the applicant’s credit score is low and they seem like an otherwise good candidate, it’s worth finding out whether there were any extenuating circumstances that could have lowered their score before making a decision.

  1. A Prior Eviction

A prior eviction is one of the biggest tenant red flags. Although there could be special circumstances that led to the eviction, especially if it took place during the height of the pandemic, evictions are often an indicator of nonpayment of rent, criminal behavior, or property damage. As with a bad credit score, it’s worth getting more details about the eviction from the tenant—and the previous landlord, if possible.

  1. A Criminal Record

Not all criminal records are necessarily a problem, but if the applicant has been arrested for crimes like theft, domestic violence, or DUIs, it’s best to choose another applicant. Keep in mind, however, that some states and local laws prohibit the use of criminal records in rental decisions.

  1. Fake References

Tenants who have had serious issues with past landlords aren’t likely to ask them for a reference—instead, they may ask a friend or family member to pose as their previous landlord. If the reference seems too good to be true, you may be dealing with a scammer. Make sure to always follow up with previous landlords and ask questions only they would know, like:

  • Did the applicant always pay their rent on time?
  • Did they receive their whole security deposit back when they moved?
  • What were the circumstances of their lease termination? Was it terminated early?
  1. Lying on Their Application

If the applicant lies on their application, such as using fake references or false employment history, this is a big red flag that they’re not trustworthy.

  1. An Incomplete Application

If an applicant doesn’t fill out the entire rental application, they may be uncomfortable with the information needed in some of the sections. An applicant who doesn’t have anything to hide will be happy to complete the application and provide information about their employment, credit, and references.

  1. High Maintenance

If the applicant already seems high maintenance, they’re likely to be even worse once they become a tenant; they may become demanding or difficult to deal with over time. In this case, you may want to save yourself the headache and select another applicant.

  1. They Want to Move in Quickly

If the applicant wants to move in right away, you may be tempted to say yes—especially if your rental has been vacant for a long time. There could be valid reasons they want to move in quickly; maybe they’ve recently relocated for a job opportunity. However, it’s also possible that they left their previous rental without notice. It’s worth finding out why they’re so eager to move in before you hand over the keys to your property.

If you’ve noticed any of these red flags during the application process, you may be tempted to deny the applicant right away, but remember to stay compliant with all federal, state, and local laws. You must follow the Fair Housing Act regulations, apply the same screening criteria to every applicant, and provide a legitimate reason why the application was denied if the tenant requests it.

Protect Your Property with Tenant Screening

The first step to making the best rental decision for your property begins with having the right information; our tenant screening services make it to make the most informed decisions for your property. All services are available online 24/7, and we offer the ability to defer the cost of the reports to the applicant. In addition, we conduct tenant verifications on your behalf, saving you time and hassle. For more information on which tenant screening reports would be most beneficial for your properties, visit our services page or feel free to contact us at 800-523-2381.

Posted by & filed under Property Management.

Most prospective tenants are honest when filling out their rental applications; unfortunately, this isn’t always the case. Many landlords have discovered that applicants included falsified information in their applications. Fake pay stubs are one of the most common falsified documents rental applicants submit, so it’s important to know how to verify their authenticity. To help you, we’ve compiled some steps you can take to spot these phony documents and improve your screening process. Please note that this is not intended as legal advice but for information only. Laws may vary depending on your location.

Fake Pay Stubs: What Are They and Why Do Applicants Use Them?

Fake pay stubs are falsified documents that can be used to provide proof of income for loans, credit cards, or rental units. These documents can be easily purchased online and often look very realistic, which can make it difficult to realize they’re fake.

closeup of a young man checking a bill, a budget or a payroll with a calculator, filtered effect

Most landlords require some form of income verification during the application process. Income verification is important to determine whether an applicant is financially stable enough to pay rent consistently. If an applicant isn’t employed, or they don’t make enough money to cover the rent, they may be tempted to provide false documents. This can also happen in cases where the tenant wants to add someone to the lease who isn’t employed or makes less money than their share of the rent.

Common Red Flags for Fake Pay Stubs

There are many different types of documents that can be falsified online, including checks and pay stubs. Here are a few of the most common red flags you should keep an eye out for:

  1. Letters and numbers are switched

Many fake pay stubs will have switched letters and numbers in the text. For example, you may see the letter “O” in place of the number “0”. In a lot of fonts, this discrepancy may be very subtle; in others, it may be obvious. Since this isn’t a mistake a professional accounting service would make, it’s a definite indicator of a falsified document.

  1. Inconsistencies

All the information on the pay stubs should be consistent with the other personal information provided by the applicant, unless there’s a good reason for it to be different. Here are some things to look for:

  • The tenant’s name should be spelled correctly and listed as their legal name
  • Gross income should line up with net pay; all the math should be accurate
  • The address of the applicant and their workplace should be accurate and spelled correctly

If you notice any incorrect or inconsistent information, request a secondary form of income verification, like TSCI’s tenant verification service.

  1. The numbers are rounded

Most paychecks aren’t rounded numbers, especially after taxes and other deductions, so if you see a pay stub for an even $3000, you’re likely dealing with a fake pay stub.

  1. Documents that look unprofessional

Most businesses use accounting firms or software, so their pay stubs will have a standardized look to them. If you notice the pay stubs have any of the following issues, they’re likely falsified:

  • Strange-looking or mismatched typeface
  • Blurry font
  • Misaligned text
  • Half-printed information
  • Gaps between information
  • Smeared or messy text
  • The wrong type of paper
  1. Look at the Metadata

If you receive a digital copy of the applicant’s pay stubs, you can look at the metadata (also called EXIF data) to find out where it came from and when it was created. You can look at the metadata through programs like Adobe Photoshop or use online tools. Although you won’t necessarily be able to spot a fake pay stub this way, it’s always a good idea to check the metadata if something doesn’t seem right.

Spotting Fake ADP Pay Stubs

ADP is a large payroll provider, so you’ll likely see some ADP pay stubs during your time as a landlord. The good news is that ADP offers a relatively easy way to verify whether pay stubs are legitimate. All ADP checks have a nine-digit routing number on the bottom. You can do a search with the Federal Reserve Department of Financial Services to find out if the routing number is real.

However, there’s a good chance you’ll be looking at the statement that was attached to the check, rather than the check itself. Look to see if the bottom of the statement is perforated; if not, it could be a fake pay stub. If you’re still having trouble figuring out if the pay stub or check is real, you can contact ADP directly to verify its authenticity.

Best Practices for Income Verification

It’s important to verify that applicants make enough money to cover the cost of rent—but what should you do if you’re concerned about fake pay stubs?

One of the best steps you can take is to request at least two forms of income and employment verification. Having several documents to look at can help you spot discrepancies and keep applicants honest. Here are some of the documents most landlords use to verify income:

  • W-2 tax form for employees
  • 1099 tax form for contractors
  • 1040 tax form
  • Bank statements
  • Employment verification letter
  • Social security statements

Another thing to keep in mind is that there are varying rules from state to state on which types of documents can be used for income verification. In most cases, you’ll be able to request the above documents as long as the applicant agrees to tenant screening. Before requesting any documentation, be sure to read up on all applicable state and local laws.

Regardless of the types of documents you accept for income verification, you should also verify the applicant’s employment; this will confirm the business is real and that the applicant is actually employed there.

Comprehensive Tenant Screening Packages

Whether you’re interested in employment verification or a background check, tenant screening is an essential step that will help protect your investment. Tenant Screening Center offers screening packages that include credit, eviction, criminal history, and residential/employment verification ranging from $29.99 to $49.99. Available online 24/7, our reports are hassle-free and easy to use—and the cost of the screening is deferred to the applicant. Order your tenant screening package today, or contact us at (800) 523-2381.

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Owning a rental property can be an exciting business opportunity, especially if you have responsible tenants who take good care of the home and pay their rent on time each month—but sometimes things don’t go as planned. You might find an amazing tenant, or you might end up with someone less than ideal. They may stop paying rent, refuse to communicate with you, or worse, cause significant damage to your rental.

To help you navigate the frustrating experience of property damage, we’ve compiled a few steps you can take. Please note that this is for informational purposes only and is not intended as legal or financial advice.

Tenant Damage vs. Normal Wear and Tear

Tenant damage goes beyond holes in the walls from hung pictures or worn carpets; these things are considered normal wear and tear that’s to be expected with any tenancy. In some cases, though, an angry or careless tenant might cause serious damage, like broken windows, large holes in the wall, or leaving large piles of trash around that cause staining, bad odors, mildew, or other unpleasant issues.

Assess the Damage

If the tenant has clearly caused property damage that goes beyond normal wear and tear, the first thing to do is to assess the damage and document it accurately. Take photos that are time-stamped; you might even want to consider taking video, as well. If, for example, there’s a large hole in the wall but the size of it isn’t clear in the photo, use a common object, like a quarter (or even a ruler) for reference.

Thorough documentation will provide valuable evidence if you need to take the issue to court. Hopefully, you took photos of the condition of the property before the tenant moved in—these can be used to prove the original condition of the rental. Next, you’ll need to get quotes from contractors for the repairs, which will help justify the costs you deduct from the tenant’s security deposit when the lease ends.

Know the Law

Although tenants are generally responsible for damages that go beyond normal wear and tear (regardless of whether it was intentional or caused by a guest), it’s important to know that state and local governments have different laws regarding rental damage. These may include specifics on who’s responsible for what and the steps landlords must take to collect money for damages that fall under the tenant’s responsibility. Before taking any action, make sure you’re clear on the laws that apply to your property.

Also, keep in mind that anything that falls under normal wear and tear isn’t the tenant’s responsibility. This includes things like worn carpet in high traffic areas, faded or peeling paint, loose grout, and worn enamel on bathtubs and sinks. On the other hand, chipped or burnt flooring, broken windows or locks, and pet stains or damage go beyond standard wear and tear and will usually be the tenant’s responsibility.

Handling Tenant Damage

How you should handle the next step can vary based on your state and local laws—as well as whether the tenant is still living at the property. Here’s a general overview of how to approach your tenant about the damage. Keep in mind that along with the damage, you should also document any attempts you make to discuss the damage with the tenant.

  • Talk to the tenant
    If the tenant has been a good tenant up until this point or the damage seems accidental, it’s worth talking with them to see if you can work something out. Bring along a copy of the signed lease or rental agreement as a reminder of what they agreed to when they moved in. Ideally, the tenant will accept responsibility and everything will go smoothly. Make sure to document whatever is agreed upon. If the tenant doesn’t accept responsibility or becomes uncooperative in any way, you’ll need to take more drastic measures.
  • File for eviction
    Breaking the lease or posing a significant threat to the property are both valid reasons to consider evicting the tenant. Although eviction is a time-consuming process, it may be the best option for uncooperative tenants. However, be aware that eviction could make the tenant vindictive—which could result in more property damage. If you choose to evict them, handle it calmly and professionally, and document every step you take.
  • Cash for keys
    If you’d prefer to avoid eviction, you also have the option of offering “cash for keys”. With cash for keys, you would offer the tenant a lump sum of money to leave the property. If you choose this scenario, you can also add on conditions—for example, the rental must be clean with no further damages. Cash for keys isn’t necessarily ideal, but it can be a quicker (and potentially less expensive) alternative to eviction.

What to Do if the Tenant Has Already Left or You Can’t Get Ahold of Them

If the tenant has already left your property, or they aren’t responding to your attempts to discuss the damage, consider taking the following steps:

  • Deduct the cost of repairs from the security deposit
    Once the tenant has left the property, get a quote for the cost of repairs and deduct them from the security deposit. Make sure to send the tenant an itemized list of what needs to be repaired.
  • Consider legal action
    If the cost of the damages exceeds the total amount of the security deposit, you’ll likely have to pay for the remaining costs yourself—or take the tenant to court. Before making a decision, you may want to discuss the best course of action with an attorney.
  • Consider filing an insurance claim
    Another option is to file an insurance claim. Depending on the circumstances, this may be the best option. Many insurance policies include tenant damage. Check with your insurance company if you’re not sure you have coverage.

What if the Financial Responsibility for Damage Isn’t Clear-Cut?

In most cases, it will be obvious who is responsible for the damages. However, some situations can confuse the matter. Take this story from the landlord’s sub-Reddit, for example. The landlord rented their former residence to a tenant; in the lease, it stated that the tenant was responsible for any damages they caused. The tenant later claimed that the outlets in the kitchen weren’t working, so they wanted the landlord to pay for the repair. The landlord, however, was pretty sure the outlets had been working when they handed the keys to the rental over to the tenant.

Although there’s not enough information to truly determine who’s responsible, this story highlights an interesting dilemma; unlike other types of damage that can be easily photographed and compared to earlier documentation, such as a burn on the carpet, there’s no easy way to prove who was at fault. The outlets may not have been working when the tenant moved in, or it’s possible the tenant overloaded them—or, it could be that a breaker needed to be reset. In this circumstance, some research would be needed to determine what caused the problem in the first place.

The best course of action would be to hire an electrician to look at the issue and go from there. Once it’s clear what caused the issue, you could determine whether it was due to something the tenant did and whether they should be billed for it. If the issue was due to old, faulty wiring, that’s not the tenant’s fault; it would be the landlord’s responsibility to fix.

Preventing Tenant Damage

There’s no way to completely eliminate tenant damage (or other issues that could arise), but there are three important steps you can take to significantly reduce the chances of it happening.

First, make sure you have a thorough tenant screening process in place that you use each time you consider an applicant. Next, you’ll want to create an iron-clad lease agreement that clearly outlines all the terms of the tenancy and your expectations of how the tenant should treat the property. Be sure to include details on what the tenant can expect if they violate the terms of the agreement. Finally, you should have a system for performing regular inspections at the rental. Whether you conduct the inspections yourself or hire someone to do it, regular inspections can help you spot minor issues before they have a chance to get worse. By taking these three steps, you can rest easier knowing your property has protection against bad tenants or large-scale damage.

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Landlord tenant law book on the lawyer table.

Each year, approximately 10 million people in the U.S. suffer from domestic violence. According to statistics from the Center for Disease Control, this amounts to nearly 20 people per minute being physically abused by an intimate partner. When you consider that around 37% of households are renters, domestic abuse at one of your properties could be a possibility at some point. For this reason, it’s essential to familiarize yourself with your responsibilities as a landlord in domestic violence situations. Please note that this is for informational purposes only and is not intended as legal advice.

What is Domestic Violence?

Before taking any action with your tenants, it’s important to have a clear understanding of what domestic violence is. The National Domestic Violence Hotline defines domestic violence (also called domestic abuse, relationship abuse, or intimate partner violence) as a pattern of behaviors used by one partner to maintain power or control over another partner in an intimate relationship.

These behaviors include physical harm, scare tactics, coercion, or threatening the other partner. It also includes stopping the partner from doing what they’d like or forcing them to behave in ways they don’t want to behave. Domestic violence often includes physical and/or sexual violence but emotional abuse, threats, intimidation, and economic deprivation are also very common. Many types of domestic abuse can be occurring at the same time or at different points in the relationship. Keep in mind, also, that both men and women can be abusers or victims—be careful not to dismiss someone because they don’t fit an expected role.

The Role of Landlords in the Violence Against Women Act

The Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) enacted in 2006, is a federal law that protects individuals who are victims of domestic violence, sexual assault, dating violence, and stalking. As part of the act, victims are also protected from discrimination in accessing and maintaining federally assisted housing due to violence committed against them. Federally assisted housing includes public housing projects, those who have a Section 8 voucher, or rental units that receive federal housing assistance. VAWA doesn’t include private, market-rate housing unless the landlord accepts Section 8 vouchers.

If your rental property qualifies as federally assisted housing, here’s what you should know:

  • Protection against discrimination. Landlords cannot refuse to rent to applicants or evict tenants solely based on them being a victim of domestic violence, sexual assault, dating violence, or stalking. Criminal acts that are directly related to violence from household members or guests cannot be used as a reason to evict the victim.
  • Permissible evictions for victims. Victims of domestic violence can be evicted if you can prove there is an actual and immediate threat to your other tenants at the property or employees if the victim continues to live there; victims can also be evicted for serious and repeated lease violations that aren’t related to the abuse. In either case, victims can’t be held to a higher standard than other tenants.
  • Evicting the abuser. The lease may be split by evicting the abuser and allowing other members of the household to continue to live at the rental property; all applicable eviction laws must be followed. In addition, the family members who remain must retain their rights as tenants.
  • Certifying the victim’s claims. If a tenant requests VAWA protections, you have the right to request that they certify they’re a victim. Official documentation isn’t required; you may use the victim’s statement alone. If you choose to request documentation, you must submit the request to the tenant in writing and give them at least 14 business days to provide it.
  • Acceptable documentation. Some acceptable forms of documentation to request include:
    • HUD-50066, available at www.hud.gov or from the Section 8 office,
    • A police or court report, such as a current order of protection, or
    • A signed statement from a medical professional, attorney, or victim service provider who states under penalty of perjury that the claims of abuse are valid
  • Confidentiality. All information disclosed by the tenant must be kept confidential, unless
    • the release of the information is required by law
    • The tenant gives you written permission to disclose the information
    • The information is needed for eviction. In this case, you must inform the victim before the eviction proceedings so that safety risks can be assessed.

VAWA protections don’t limit your obligation to honor court orders for access to or control of the property, such as orders to protect the victim or divide property among household members—nor do they replace any local, state, or federal laws that provide greater protections for victims.

Domestic Violence Laws Vary Across the Country

Regardless of the housing sector your property falls under, it’s important to review local and state laws to determine your responsibilities in the matter, as both can vary widely based on location.

For example, California law requires landlords to change the locks within 24 hours for tenants who have a restraining order or a police report related to domestic violence, violent threats, sexual assault, or stalking. In Illinois, victims of domestic abuse may be able to have the locks changed at their expense provided they:

  • Provide written notice from all tenants requesting that the locks be changed because one of the tenants or a member of the tenant’s household is at imminent risk of domestic violence, violent threats, sexual assault, or stalking; and
  • The notice must be accompanied by proof that supports these claims, such as medical, court, or police evidence, or a statement from a domestic violence or rape crisis organization that provided services to the tenant

If the threat of domestic or sexual violence comes from someone who is a tenant in the same unit or the landlord doesn’t have a written lease, the proof provided with the written notice must be a copy of a plenary order of protection or a plenary civil no-contact order that specifically grants the tenant exclusive rights to the premises.

Advice for Landlords in All Sectors

Domestic abuse is just as common in the private sector as it is in federal housing, so it’s important to be aware of the signs it may be happening. These include:

  • Personal disclosures of domestic abuse, such as a tenant telling you they don’t feel safe at home
  • Misidentified anti-social behavior, such as repeated noise or nuisance complaints from neighbors due to physical altercations, verbal abuse, slamming doors, throwing objects, or punching walls
  • Late rent payments due to economic abuse from a partner
  • Property damage, such as broken windows, holes in the wall, or damage to appliances
  • Requests for added security measures or lock changes, especially if the perpetrator has left the property

If you believe your tenant is experiencing domestic abuse, you should ask them about their situation when they’re safe and alone. They may not want to discuss it, however, you can begin by asking closed questions that allow them to give yes or no answers, such as “is it a safe time to talk to you?” Some tenants may be reluctant to talk about the situation, as they may fear they won’t be believed or that they risk eviction. One example of how the subject could be approached is by saying, “I’ve received some noise complaints lately, so I wanted to check on you and see if there’s anything I can do to help.”

If the tenant wants to talk, here are some dos and don’ts to follow:

  • Do listen without judgment
  • Do believe them
  • Do validate what you’re telling them, such as “I’m glad you told me.”
  • Don’t confront the abuser, as this could put the household at risk
  • Don’t contact the police or other special services unless:
    • Someone is being actively violent on the property, or
    • There’s an immediate risk of the victim being harmed, or
    • When you need to report safeguarding concerns about an adult or child in the household, or
    • You suspect abuse toward a vulnerable adult

If there is no immediate crisis but you suspect there may be ongoing abuse, you can also provide the tenant with the number for The National Domestic Violence Hotline (1-800-799-7233).

Additional Resources

Domestic violence is a complicated situation—for victims, as well as landlords. For that reason, your best bet may be to consult with legal counsel on how best to proceed if you discover domestic abuse at one of your properties. Normally, tenants who are victims of domestic violence are still required to pay rent in full and on time; they can be evicted for non-payment issues, but you may want to consider other avenues first. There are many alternatives to help tenants through difficult situations, including referring them to an organization that provides emergency assistance to abuse victims or those facing eviction.

Some additional resources include: