You don’t appreciate good tenants once you realize how much damage a bad tenant can place on your rental property. And after that, you’ll never want to rent to anyone but the most qualified applicants ever again.
While there’s no way to guarantee tenants respect your property and pay their rent on time, it’s much more likely when you conduct a thorough tenant screening process. It’s tough to know everything to look for, though, and that’s where experience comes in handy.
As one of the top property management companies in Oakland, we’ve screened many tenants and know how to choose the best of the best. That’s why we’re going to explain all you need to know about tenant screening and selecting a company to screen tenants for you. If you are in Oakland, we can perform the tenant screening for you. If you are in a different state, we also offer some tips to screen tenants.
What Goes into Tenant Screening
Effective tenant screening is a multi-part process that starts the moment a prospective resident inquires about a vacant unit. Whether they call or email, the property manager should prescreen them to verify that they meet the minimum requirements for the property.
When the prospective resident comes by to view the unit, the manager can screen them in person. You can tell a lot about someone with an in-person meeting. Of course, it’s important to avoid anything that could be construed as discrimination in a screening process, as that would violate the Fair Housing Act.
After that is the rental application. With a detailed rental application, the manager can check the following on the applicant:
- Credit score/history
- Criminal record
- Eviction history
- Rental history
- What previous landlords think of them
- What other references think of them
How We Find the Best Tenants
If you have us manage your Oakland rental property for you, then we’ll handle every aspect of filling vacant units, from advertising units to setting up lease agreements with tenants.
Here’s a closer look at how we approach every stage of tenant screening.
There’s only so much you can do during a pre-screening. We focus on answering two big questions when a prospective tenant first contacts us:
- How many people will be living in the unit?
- Can the tenant(s) afford the unit?
We have a maximum number of tenants we allow per unit, and we require that the combined income of all tenants is at least three times as much as rent costs.
If there are other specific deal breakers we can cover here, we will. For example, if the owner of the property has pet restrictions, we’ll ask callers if they have any pets.
Showing the Unit
When we show the unit, it’s not just a prospective tenant’s chance to check it out. It’s also an opportunity for us to note any red flags.
There are all kinds of warning signs indicating a prospective tenant may not be a good choice. Perhaps the most obvious is when someone shows up with more people than they said they’d be living with.
The person’s professionalism and demeanor can also tell a lot about them. If someone shows up late or looking disheveled, that can be a sign they’re irresponsible. If they drive over, the state of their car is something we consider. When someone has a filthy car, it stands to reason that they won’t take much car of the place they live, either.
Processing an Application
The rental application is the most useful tool we have in evaluating prospective tenants. We use it to get a clear picture of how responsible the tenant is and whether they’d be a good fit for the property.
We run a background check, an eviction check and a credit check on every applicant. If the applicant has a criminal record, the background check will bring that up.
Our eviction check covers not just eviction judgements against an applicant but also eviction filings. This is an important distinction. A tenant could have many eviction filings to their name, but no judgements, because they finally pay up or leave the property before going to court. That’s still someone who you wouldn’t want to rent to, and you’d be in the dark if you failed to check eviction filings against them. We also do a nationwide eviction check, not one that’s limited to Oakland or California.
The credit check shows us the applicant’s credit score and any potential financial red flags, such as bankruptcies.
We verify the applicant’s employment by contacting the employer listed, and we also confirm their income when we do this. For self-employed applicants, we can request tax returns or bank statements to verify income.
Finally, we get in touch with any landlords and other references the applicant listed to see if they vouch for the applicant or mention any potential problems.
Choosing a Tenant Screening Services Company
You have plenty of options for Oakland tenant screening, but not all services are created equal. When you’re choosing your tenant screening company, make sure to check that they meet the following requirements:
- They run detailed background, eviction and credit checks at the national level with a high-quality reporting agency. Many reports have inaccurate or missing information, making them essentially useless, which is why having a thorough reporting agency running the checks is important.
- They check the applicant’s employment and income.
- They call all the applicant’s previous landlords.
Remember that tenant screening isn’t something you can do in five minutes. It’s worth spending a little extra time to select only qualified tenants.
If you need help with tenant screening, we can do it for you. Over the years, we’ve put many responsible tenants in our clients’ properties, ensuring that the rent gets paid and each unit is kept in great shape.