Before you started thinking about renting your first property, you knew at least a little something about every person that came into your home. They were either friends, family members, or connected to one of those two groups. So why should that change now?
In reality, just because someone is paying to live in your property doesn't mean you should be any less careful about whom you allow in. As a property manager in Richmond, we know there are right and wrong ways to screen tenants. Here is how to do it in a fair, considerate manner, without compromising the safety of your property—or those in the neighborhood.
1. Use a Reputable Screening Service
The best way to make sure your screening service is worth its salt is to use one that is FCRA compliant. There are laws associated with screening tenants pertaining not just to Richmond, but the whole country. An FCRA compliant screening company is going to adhere to them—under penalty of law. If their screening is done correctly, you are less likely to run into problems with either your future tenants or the law.
Regardless of whether you use an FCRA-compliant screening company in Richmond, there are some things about tenants you should look over—and others you should overlook. Here are some of the most important considerations to keep in mind:
When someone rents from you, they are, in a way, taking advantage of a "line of credit." Regardless of whether or not they give you a deposit, they are entrusted with something valuable that they have to return in good working order. Renters with questionable credit may pose a higher risk, so do a credit check before signing on the dotted line.
Criminal Background Check
You can get the most relevant information from a standard criminal background check because it will include much more than crimes the person has committed or even crimes for which they've merely gone to court. You will see things relevant to their driving record as well as other court appearances. However, reading a criminal background check document is a slippery slope:
- You shouldn't judge someone based on things for which there was no conviction. The background check will clearly state whether there was a conviction or not. If there wasn't, the information should not be used as a barrier to renting to the person.
- On the other hand, if something legitimate does pop up, the considerate thing to do would be to ask the person about it—if you feel safe doing so. There's a chance they don't even know that anything popped up. In some cases, there may be enough background to provide a different perspective.
Don't allow the desire to rent out your property to affect your judgment! When in doubt, take the safe route: consult with your trusted legal counsel or a property manager in Richmond on how to proceed.
Check Previous Rental History
With the large population of renters in Richmond, you are almost guaranteed to find people who have rented from others. If you know other landlords who have rented to your applicant, then asking a few questions is easy and not unreasonable. However, it may be more convenient to check the residency history on their credit report. You can use this information to get contact details to get in touch with people they've rented from before.
You may also want to ask them for references. With both criminal activity (or the lack thereof) and renting behaviors, there's a good chance the person will follow a similar pattern—for better or worse. You have the right to reject someone's application if you find a legitimate reason to do so.
2. Never, Ever Discriminate
Prejudice can rear its ugly head at the most unexpected times—and sometimes, it can come from within. To "play it safe," you may be tempted to reject someone based on the color of their skin, their ethnic background, their religion, or their sexual orientation. Each form of prejudice is unique—but all are against the law. Before you say no to someone with an identity or demographic group different from your own, be sure your reasons aren't influenced by prejudice.
Other than being morally wrong, prejudice can also present legal issues, particularly if the person can prove you discriminated against them. Focus on how the person "looks" on paper before seeing them, and try your best to make a balanced, fair decision. If you say no to someone for a reason, document your reasoning and store it—along with proof—for future reference in case an issue arises.
3. Bring in Richmond Property Management
Property management companies in Richmond are tenant screening experts. They have the experience needed to help narrow down your choices and help prevent you from renting to a terrible tenant.
At Mission Realty Property Management, we know that a tenant can make or break your investment—placing the right tenant into your Richmond investment property matters. This is why we offer landlords our crucial Tenant Screening Checklist for free! Find the right tenants the first time when you work with Mission Realty Property Management.