Posted by & filed under TSCI TidBit.

If you are investing in rental property to grow your investment portfolio, a best practice is consistent tenant screening. What is the best package for you? It depends. Although our products are divided into 1-5 units and 6+, it’s really your needs and preferences that decide. Our 6+ services require an on-site inspection to confirm a Separate home office, locking file cabinet for properly storing applicants report information and an acceptance of terms of 25-page aggrement for service. After registration is usually takes 24-48 hours to coordinate a local rep to contact you to schedule a 2-3 hour time slot for a visit.

This process is efficient, yet requires planning and organization. When building an investment portfolio, this extra effort may offer you extra peace of mind with the added reporting services available (credit, mini and full report). If you find the process of an on-site visit inconvenient or would like to enjoy a more expedient process, TSC RentalConnect is suitable for an unlimited number of properties and provides you efficient on-line processing.

Posted by & filed under Tenant Screening.

Prospective TenantsWhen you’re looking through applicants for prospective tenants for your properties, it can be difficult to determine who would be the best match for your rental unit. Applicants who seem ideal on paper might actually be unsuitable for your property, so it’s important to ask several important questions above and beyond the basics. When in doubt, it may be advisable to have potential tenants fill out additional paperwork, like rental verification forms, in order to get a little more insight into their history.

However you decide to handle your application process, make sure your prospective tenants are open to additional questions either in person or over the phone. A major point to consider is whether or not a tenant can abide by your stated rules and regulations. Verify whether or not the person has pets and make sure they verbally acknowledge that they’re aware of your policies regarding guests, subletting, undisclosed tenants, or other stipulations.

Another important question is whether they have the funds to pay both the first month’s rent and the security deposit. A qualified tenant should be able to pay these fees upon signing the lease. If they put you off or state they can’t get the money right away, consider it a warning sign that they may not be reliable about paying rent on time.

In the same vein, you should make sure the tenant is open to a background and credit check. Not only will this check reveal to you whether your prospective tenant has a history of nonpayment or bad credit, but their resistance to agreeing to the check will speak volumes, as well.

Asking when an applicant needs to move and why they’re moving can also be very revealing. It can tell you whether they’re just on the hunt but not ready to move in right away, or if they’re leaving their current residence on bad terms. If you’re looking to fill a unit quickly with a qualified tenant who won’t cause you any trouble, these are good things to know. If their excuse for moving in quickly seems suspect, contact their previous landlord with questions.

We recommend background and credit checks as standard for any property manager or landlord who wants to make sure they’re selecting the best tenants for their units. For more information contact us here at Tenant Screening Center!

Posted by & filed under Rentals.

Rentals that Allow PetsIt’s hard not to love our pets — they’re loyal, sweet, cuddly, entertaining, and adorable. When it comes to rentals, however, a whole new host of concerns crop up. Keeping a pet in a rental home or unit involves more than simply releasing them into the wilds of an apartment to explore to their heart’s content. Depending on the type of animal, property managers have to be concerned with property damage, stains, cleaning, the potential allergies of future tenants, noise pollution, possible attacks on other tenants, and more.

Despite these potential issues, it may still be in your best interest to allow pets on the premises. Millions upon millions of people in the United States are pet owners with companions ranging from Dumbo Rats to Great Danes. Cat and dog owners comprise at least half the population, possibly more. People love their animals and are unlikely to give them up easily. This means that they’re specifically looking for housing rentals that accommodate their pets. If your properties have a big fat NO PETS clause plastered across the contract, you may be losing out on a wide range of quality tenants.

So how do you balance accepting pets with keeping your property secure and in good shape? Here are a few things to keep in mind.

Be crystal clear in your contract. Allowing pets to cohabit your properties will open up more possibilities in your tenant pool, but you should still be very clear about your expectations and the consequences your tenants will face if things go awry. Stipulate the type and number of pets that are allowed, weight guidelines, and tenant responsibility for damage or issues such as noise or harming other tenants.

Enforce rules that encourage responsibility. Have your tenants fill out information sheets about pets and provide proof of spay/neuter, as well as rabies vaccinations. Install trashcans specifically for waste if you allow dogs, and insist all tenants pick up after their pets. Do not allow animals to roam the property unsupervised. If a tenant cannot abide by these rules, they must forfeit the animal or break their lease.

Hire an excellent cleaning service or keep pet-free units. While many people simply love having pets and are more than happy to live in a unit previously occupied by animals, others may have allergies or sensitivities. In order to remain open to the widest range of applicants, make sure units are thoroughly cleaned by a service used to dealing with animal dander. Alternately, you can keep a set number of your units pet-free.

Utilize tenant screening services to check rental history. If a pet owner has been previously evicted for damage, breaking contracted pet agreements, or having a problem animal, that information may show up in a rental background check.

Charge higher rent or pet deposits. If you’re concerned about the potential hazards of allowing pets, make sure your bases are covered by charging an appropriate amount for the privilege of keeping pets in your units. This gives you a buffer in case you have to deal with repairs or other issues down the line, while also bringing in extra income.

Millions of renters are looking for units that will take their adorable cats and dogs, so it’s in your best interest as a property manager to welcome them with open arms. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t do your due diligence, however. For more advice on pet rentals, contact us here at Tenant Screening Center!

Posted by & filed under Tenant Screening.

Tenant Rental HistoryWhen you’re dotting your i’s and crossing your t’s, one of the most important things you can do to protect yourself as a property owner is to check out tenant rental history. Running a background check can be effective for uncovering details about an applicant’s previous residences, but it’s still a good idea to work with a service that gives you a full picture of their rental history, as well. This will show you if they have any evictions on record, which is important to know before you sign a lease with a new tenant.

There are a whole host of reasons why a tenant might have had a previous eviction, and you should consider them carefully. In order for a legal eviction to occur, a property owner or manager must prove one of a number of serious offenses, from failure to pay rent to illegal use of the space. For your consideration, here are some of the most common grounds for eviction: rent nonpayment, unapproved tenants or subletting, improper use of space for commercial gain, nuisance complaints, property damage, drugs or illegal activity, unauthorized pets, or failure to vacate after the lease expires.

For obvious reasons, you’ll want to know if a previous tenant might have exhibited any of these behaviors. This is to protect you and your current tenants against any potential liability, as well as to keep your reputation intact. If your properties are housing problem tenants, word may spread via ratings websites or social media, which can damage your future prospects even if problem tenants are taken care of. In order to ensure that you know exactly what you’re getting into before you sign the lease, invest in quality background checks that include tenant rental history.

Requesting a credit check is another way to make sure you’re only signing on quality, responsible tenants. Any negative housing history or a failure to pay rent should show up on their credit history. This is just another tool in your arsenal for creating a safe, beneficial relationship between you and all of your tenants.

For additional information about running rental histories and background checks, please contact us here at Tenant Screening Center to get started!

Posted by & filed under Tenant Screening.

Background ChecksFirst things first: when we talk about “background checks,” what do we really mean? A background check on a potential tenant can provide a variety of detailed information about their criminal history, including previous evictions. It’s best to work with a service provider that has a reputation quality checks with detailed information if you want to make sure you’re getting the full, accurate history of a potential renter.

What’s the benefit of looking into a tenant’s criminal and eviction history? The answer is simple: it mitigates the risk of accepting a renter with a troublesome past who’s likely to put a property manager at financial or even legal risk. While financial history is beneficial for determining if someone is likely to be able to consistently pay rent on time, a full background check can reveal information that a property manager may not have even considered.

A criminal check can range from convictions within the local county to a multijurisdictional search that retrieves information from criminal activity on the state or even national level. Depending on the type of tenants a property usually houses, it may be prudent to make sure the search is extended to a full national check in order to find out if something happened outside the area. These searches will allow property owners and managers to make an informed decision based on the type of activity obtained through the search. For example, a manager may decide to sign a lease with someone convicted of a minor infraction, but not with someone who’s been convicted of theft or violent crime, which may put other tenants at risk and leave the management open to legal trouble.

Our particular data base reports provide information regarding criminal and eviction history, sex offender and terrorist watch list data, social security number verification, and social security death index. We also validate the applicant’s name, address, and previous addresses.

For more information on background checks, please contact us here at Tenant Screening Center. We’re happy to help!

Posted by & filed under Vacation Rentals.

For landlords of long-term residential units, the background check is a familiar tool of the trade. They’re considered standard protocol and are typically accepted as a safety precaution against fraud, problem tenants, poor credit, and other information that might inform the decision about whether or not to rent to specific people. When your livelihood is tied up in your rental property, it’s a completely logical and legal way to protect your investment.

However, if you’ve decided to dip your toe into the pool of vacation rentals, it’s a little bit of a different story. Background checks are typically not used for short-term vacation rentals due to both the expense and the fact that guests might be turned off if they’re asked for excessive amounts of personal information to stay in a condo for a weekend. Still, it’s likely that you’ll want to know a little bit about your potential renters before allowing them into your property. What’s the solution?

Generally speaking, there are a number of things that you can and should ask for when booking someone for your vacation rental space. You can ask for copies of driver’s licenses, phone numbers, and a credit card number for billing. If you’re using a third-party site to rent out your space, they may also have general information gathering services in place. You are welcome to set rules, ask for a security deposit, and dictate whether or not pets and children are allowed, and if so, what type and how many. Check-in and check-out dates with defined “in and out” times are also acceptable, especially if you have housekeeping or other cleanup services that come through between guests.

How else can you protect your rental investment from potentially poor tenants? Consider speaking with them on the phone or exchanging emails before their stay. Familiarize yourself with tactics used by potential scammers, such as questionable emails with odd phrasing that just feel “off” to you, or strange requests for money transfer. If you want to get very “private eye,” you might also check up on their social media sites, if available.

If you do want to consider more in-depth checks for longer stays, contact a professional service for advice or additional help. We’re always available, and we have plenty of experience with background checks!

Posted by & filed under Airbnb.

If you’ve never considered offering up your home as a vacation rental, the rise of Airbnb may be changing your mind lately. When most people hear “vacation rental,” they think of a second property located somewhere swanky, not their own home. However, companies like Airbnb are making it easy to offer up any sort of space, from a spare bedroom to an air mattress on the floor. For people who are looking for ways to make a little extra income, this free-to-list service can be very appealing.

Of course, as with any rental situation, there are certain preparations and precautions you’re going to want to take into account. The Airbnb site promises a certain level of safety and protection, as well as some methods of checking up on guests, but ultimately you’re inviting temporary tenants into your home, and more often than not, they’ll be complete strangers to you. How do you both make sure your home is welcoming to potential guests and ensure that they’ll be decent temporary roommates?

Here are a few ideas.

Be a good host. First things first – take care of what you can control, which is your attitude and your space. Make sure that whichever space you’re renting out is clean and organized, and that you’re capable of being friendly and accommodating (within reason), especially if you’re going to be living in the same space with your guests. If you’d like to go the extra mile, you can spend a little extra on linens and toiletries, or offer snacks or breakfast. Make sure you have fans, extra blankets, or anything else they might need to be comfortable. Aiming to offer a quality experience could influence the type of tenants you end up with and the amount you can charge.

Use Airbnb’s resources to research guests. Airbnb offers guest profiles and reviews of frequent users, and allows you to message back and forth before you book them. Use these tools, and use them frequently! Speak with potential renters on the phone. If a guest is giving you a bad vibe, don’t book them.

Consider adding a security deposit and insurance for extra protection. A guest may look great on paper, but you never know. Also, accidents do happen!

Check in with your HOA or other management company if necessary. To prevent surprise fines, make sure you’re well within your HOA regulations or other terms and conditions. Some do not allow for vacation rentals, which can cause you big trouble if you offer your space, even if you’re there as well.

Create a list of “house rules” or terms of agreement for your space. In order to prevent misunderstandings or claims that guests didn’t know better, make sure they’re aware of what you will and won’t allow up front.

If you need help or guidance, ask for it! Becoming a landlord or renting out your home can be a nerve-wracking and confusing process. Thankfully there are professional rental management companies that can help. For advice on tenant screening and more, feel free to reach out to us!

Posted by & filed under Abandonded Property.

Tenants Leave Abandoned Property There are many joys that come with being a landlord. Unfortunately, there are a number of downsides, as well. Every landlord hopes they’ll be able to get away with not ever having to deal with a problem tenant, but few are so lucky. Issues can range from noise violations to criminal activity, and you may have to deal with leaving notice (which we’ve discussed before) or even eviction. None of this is fun. Even after a unit’s been vacated, the ordeal may not be over. There may be damages or abandoned personal property.

It’d be easy enough if you could just get rid of anything former tenants left behind, but that’s not the way it works. Every state has its own laws and regulations for how you must deal with abandoned personal property, and you’ll want to make sure you toe the line carefully. If you don’t, you could end up with even bigger issues down the line. Before you even have to deal with this issue, it’s a good idea to do some research or consult with your legal counsel about what would be required of you if you’re ever stuck with abandoned property. That way, you’re prepared.

Once you’re familiar with the laws in your area, you can better deal with everything. It’s also important to note that the regulations can change depending on how or why the unit was vacated. If the tenant just up and left unexpectedly, you may have to operate under different rules than if they were evicted. It’s good to know the difference.

To start, a general rule of thumb is that it’s considered acceptable to get rid of any identifiable garbage. If the tenant left trash, food, empty receptacles, or similar junk that has no value, it can be discarded without consequence. When you start getting to items that are worth something, however, you must treat them differently.

It’s a good idea to invite in a third party to oversee your inventory and removal of any items as you clean out the unit. Take lots of pictures so there’s no room for argument about the condition something was in before you moved it. Make a list to ensure everything is accounted for, and move personal items to a secure storage facility. If there’s an abandoned vehicle on the premises, report it to the authorities.

These measures are all to keep you safe, legally speaking. Again, check your area’s policies as far as how long you’re required to hold personal property before it can be sold or discarded. The cost of removal and storage can be deducted from your tenant’s deposit – just be sure you make an itemized record of the charges for your and their reference. You may also be required to send notice to the tenant’s last known address informing them that unless they take action within a certain timeframe, you will be disposing of their property.

This is a general guide for dealing with abandoned personal property. If you have additional questions, contact us here at Tenant Screening Services or consult a legal professional.

Posted by & filed under Rentals.

Landlord Responsibility When tenants live on your property, there’s often a certain expectation of safety and protection for themselves and their property. They expect a safe unit to live in, functional window and door locks, a safe place to park their vehicle without risk of preventable damage, and other similar security measures. If something happens on your property – if a tenant is attacked in the parking lot, or their car’s broken into, or their unit robbed – that trust may be shattered, and you may be wondering what your responsibility is. Are you liable? Can a tenant break their lease or even sue you?

Here’s what you need to know: if an action you took (or didn’t take) left your rental property insecure, then yes, you may be liable. At the very least, your tenant should be able to securely lock any entryway into their unit. This includes functional window locks or other security measures. As for damage or robbery to vehicles, that may depend on whether or not the car is located on your property and the laws in your state.

If you have not provided a sufficiently secure unit, your tenant may be well within their rights to break their lease. Likewise, if they reported a problem to you (like a lost key or a malfunctioning lock) and you didn’t take steps to remedy the problem, then you may also be held responsible and they’ll be able to break their lease.

However, if a robbery or other crime occurred on the property because of the tenant’s actions (they left their door unlocked, for example) or due to forced entry (indicating that the unit was properly secured but was damaged in order to commit the crime), then you likely wouldn’t be considered at fault, but you would be expected to repair damage and reestablish the unit as secure as quickly as possible. For issues that occur off of your property or break-ins to a tenant’s personal property, like their car or storage unit that you do not own or control, you’re unlikely to be held responsible.

You may want to make sure you’re providing a safe, secure environment for your tenants by going above and beyond the standard call of duty. Functional locks are a necessity, but what about gated entry, or on-site security, or even alarm systems? These are all optional additional security measures, but choosing to provide them to your tenants may increase the appeal of your property. As always, the golden rule of being a good landlord is listening to and respecting your tenants’ concerns. If they’re worried about safety, consider their position carefully.

For help and information about creating an ideal tenant community, contact us!

Posted by & filed under Rentals.

Tenant NoticesAs a landlord, you’re probably at least somewhat familiar with serving your tenants notices. There are many different notices that you’re required by law to use to notify people living on your property of certain events, including entering their premises, raising rates, or terminating a lease. These laws and regulations vary by state and even county, so be sure to review your local stipulations carefully.

When it comes to notices, it’s recommended that you send them by Certified Mail if you want to be sure a court of law will accept proof of delivery. Otherwise, it can be difficult to show a timeline of when you served notice to a tenant. This is a precaution – most notices are for basic services and notifications and will likely not require court action. Even so, better safe than sorry.

You’ll probably be most familiar with notices of entry, notices to comply or quit, and rental notices.

Notices of entry exist to inform your tenants that you or a service person will be entering their unit, and they must be given in advance in many states. The amount of advance notice (or if you must serve notice at all) varies by area, so make sure you know your area’s regulations. Even if there are no laws requiring it of you, it’s still considered a good rule of thumb for showing your tenants proper respect and maintaining good relations.

Notices to comply or quit usually come in the form of notifying a tenant that they must comply with a certain rental requirement or their lease will be terminated. Most often, this has to do with late rental payment or noncompliance with a policy outlined in their lease. You should give them a timeframe to remedy the situation and a clear date for when they will be expected to vacate if they do not comply.

Rental notices typically have to do with informing tenants about rental rate changes and whether or not the can renew their lease once it’s expired. The amount of notice you need to give varies, so double-check what’s expected in your area.

These are the most common notices, but there are a few others. You may want to serve notice about the sale or removal of abandoned personal property, or a notice if ownership or management of the property is changing. You may also occasionally have to serve an eviction notice due to repeated policy violation or other reason that doesn’t allow the tenant a chance to remedy the situation. Once again, this is your call, is dependent upon your lease agreement, and can vary by state.

For more information about creating and issuing professional tenant notices, contact us here at Tenant Screening Services. We’re very familiar with regulations and best practices, and are happy to help!