Every landlord would love to have the perfect tenants, but there are some bad eggs out there, sad to say. Proper tenant screenings and background checks are a good start to avoid them.
However, there are other factors you’d be smart to consider. Take a look at the 11 tips below to help you find the best tenants for your Houston, Texas rental property.
1. Follow the Law
Above all else, the landlord has to uphold the law when selecting tenants. The Federal Fair Housing Act exists to prevent discrimination against anyone in providing equal housing opportunities.
You are prohibited from discriminating against potential renters based on race, national origin, religion, gender, disabilities, or family status. Many states include another layer in the form of their own set of Fair Housing Rules.
Make sure you’re aware of the state’s regulations to ensure you observe national and local laws.
2. Create Quality Listings
Bringing in quality tenants starts with posting quality listings. Make sure you have professional photos taken of a staged unit.
Compose a description that entices the kind of people you’re looking for. List the amenities and what tenants can expect from you, as well as whatever you will expect from them.
3. Be Up Front with Rental Criteria
Citing your expectations up front will preserve you from a lot of headaches. You’ll avoid having to sift through unqualified tenants, and devote more of your time to studying the ones who could be a good match.
In your rental listings, make sure to include how much income prospective renters will need to make, what the lifestyle requirements are: non-smokers, 55+ community, or people without pets, for example; as well as being a friendly neighbor who is easy to work with.
4. Meet Applicants in Person or on Zoom
First impressions can tell you a lot. Get to know the prospects personally by speaking to them at the showing.
Did they show up on time? Were they interested in the unit? These are details you can only find out if you meet them in person.
If everything is being operated virtually, set up a Zoom call. Face-to-face conversations can make a big difference when you’re screening your tenants.
5. Do a Background Check
To keep your tenants and employees safe, you’ll want to ensure you run criminal background checks. All previous and current criminal information is listed as public record.
This will enable you to see whether people committed minor offenses or serious violations. Be vigilant when you request personal information from potential tenants when they apply for housing. Verify that they provide a valid I.D.
6. Don’t Accept Only a FICO Score
Many online banking systems provide free credit scores for their customers. This is great for them to be aware of, but it shouldn’t be the only form of a credit check you run on your applicants.
Run a full credit check. Find out:
- Whether they pay their bills on time and have a solid history to prove it.
- What their income-to-debt ratio is.
- If they have filed any bankruptcies.
- If they have any prior evictions.
7. Find Out About Their Rental History
For an effective application process, make sure to get the contact information of two or three previous landlords. This is where you may locate much valuable information.
Old landlords will be the first to tell you whether there were any issues with your prospective renters. It would be easy to trust the word of their current landlord; however, that party might be anxious to move the people out, and therefore inclined to stretch the truth.
You should learn as much as you can: everything from how they treated the neighbors to notices of prior evictions will be useful.
8. Decide Whether They May Need a Co-Signer
If someone needs a co-signer on the lease, you shouldn’t write them off. Often, a first-time renter may not have the rental history they require.
Certain new contracting jobs might not provide enough detail with regard to their earnings. In this case, a co-signer can be the next best thing for the tenant.
You’ll want to do a thorough background and credit check on the co-signer, just as you would for the tenant. These are the people you’ll turn to if the new tenant doesn’t pay rent on time. Then it becomes the responsibility of the co-signer, which is why you should treat them the same as an actual tenant.
9. Look for Stability
A stable tenant is a good tenant. Throughout the screening process, look for consistency. Did the person move around a lot? Did he or she constantly switch jobs?
These can be potential red flags in terms of ability to pay the rent, or whether you’ll have to deal with more vacancies sooner rather than later.
10. Touch Base with Employers
As much as we’d all like to believe everything an applicant says, it’s worthwhile to cross-check all the details. Make sure the prospective tenants include contact information about their employers. Verify they work for the company they say they do, and what their income is.
Don’t forget to double-check who you speak with at the firm, as well. Some applicants will ask a friend or family member to pose as their employer.
A brief online search of the in-house colleague’s name and other company information should be enough to make sure everything matches up.
11. Trust Your Gut
All the screening in the world won’t do what your intuition can. If you have a bad feeling while you’re obeying the Fair Housing Laws, trust your instincts.
There could be an identity theft issue or credit fraud concern hidden beneath the surface of a great-looking rental application. It’s better to have a vacancy than a tenant who could cause you trouble down the road.
Finding the right tenant can be a challenge, but if you follow these steps, you should be on the right track. The best part is: You don’t have to do it all yourself.
Green Residential is a reputable property management company in Houston, Texas that performs reliable tenant screenings that take the heavy lifting off your shoulders and ensure you’re not missing anything. Give us a call to speak with one of our professional and friendly team members.