Landlords and tenants alike just want a pleasant relationship, so that each can live in peace. No landlord should ever allow a tenant to move into their rental property without first requiring the prospective tenant to completely fill out a rental application.
Among the important questions that should be answered on the application are:
– Place of current employment?
– Length of employment?
– Name of bank?
– Social Security number?
– Do they have pets, if so what kind?
– Number of vehicles?
– How many occupants will live on the property?
– Ages of occupants?
– Name and address of current and prior landlords?
– Have you been convicted of a felony?
– Have you ever been evicted?
– Are you currently engaged in criminal activity?
– Have you been arrested and charged with a crime, but not yet convicted?
– Are you in bankruptcy or plan to file for bankruptcy?
A bold notice on your rental application form should read: Falsification of this information is grounds for a ten day Notice to Move if discovered later by the landlord or management.
With the information found on the rental application the landlord can begin the screening process. It is the landlord’s responsibility to be sure the tenant is the right person to occupy the home or apartment… and that the home or apartment is right for the applicant.
A qualified tenant is one who can afford the rent and has the characteristics necessary to coexist with the neighbors or other tenants. On the other hand a landlord should not rent a one bedroom unit to a four member family.
The screening process includes checking the tenant’s credit rating. Someone who has a long list of late payments and unpaid debts could immediately become a problem tenant. Solve that problem before it begins by forthrightly explaining to the prospect why he or she is not eligible to occupy the property. The best eviction is one that occurs before occupancy.
Along with a good credit history you must check prior rent history and search public criminal records for indications of behavior problems. You can ask the tenant’s prior landlord to fill out and return a written questionnaire on the tenant’s length of tenancy, payment history, violations of lease terms, etc. Yes, you can ask buy few landlords will answer. If they do reply they will avoid any negative report for fear the tenant might see the report and bring legal action against them. More practically, you might just call the present or prior landlord and learn what you can verbally.
Many people who have a criminal record have reformed and are leading exemplary lives. However, even for a sympathetic landlord to rent to a felon is playing with fire. If the felon shoots a neighbor or another tenant… and it comes out in the police report that the landlord was aware of the criminal record, it is probable that someone will sue the landlord.
Make no mistake about it… fair housing laws require you to treat all prospective residents the same. Make sure you have your rental criteria in place and that it is reasonable.