“Landlord Tips and Tricks for Background Checks” written by Mike Marko
The background check is among the most important tasks a landlord has to perform. That’s because without it, a landlord can’t tell which applicants are worth renting or leasing to.
Background checks give you an idea of the trustworthiness of the tenant, as well as his financial means. Tenants with clean records and stable employment are naturally better at observing rules and paying rent on time than others.
Thus, the background check is necessary when managing a rental property. Unfortunately, a lot of new landlords aren’t sure how to do them properly.
They try to simply pore over the documents a tenant submits, for instance. They don’t realize that in most cases, the most useful background information about a person is that which he doesn’t disclose himself.
That means you usually have to shift yourself to achieve a proper background check on someone. Today, we’ll talk about how to do that.
In particular, we’ll go over some expert landlord tips and tricks for running background checks on tenants. With these landlord tips and tricks, you’ll be able to do background checks more effectively for your business.
Landlord Tips and Tricks for Background Checking
Background checking, as mentioned earlier, is a method of vetting applicants for a tenancy. It gives landlords a peek into applicants’ past conduct.
This is so they can make an informed guess as to how those applicants would act as tenants. How they acted in the past can often indicate how they will act again.
If an applicant has a history of evictions from rented properties, for example, it wouldn’t be wise to risk granting a tenancy to that applicant. Such a pattern is likely to repeat itself, in most cases.
That being said, the background check isn’t a perfect predictor of the future. Just because a tenant was evicted once in the past doesn’t mean he’ll get evicted again from other properties.
There may have been extenuating circumstances affecting that past event. He may have lost his job in unusual events, or something to that effect.
Even so, background checks can give landlords sufficient information to make reasonable predictions about applicants’ future behavior.
That’s if the background checks are done well, of course.
That brings us back to the reason we’re here today, which is to discuss landlord tips and tricks for carrying out background checks.
Below are the ones you should take note of if you want to make the most of your background checks on applicants.
Always Run a Credit Check
Search any list of landlord tips and tricks for applicant vetting procedures and you’ll find this one. That’s because a credit check is integral to the background checking process.
A background check covers a lot of things, because it aims to give you a fairly rounded picture of the applicant for a tenancy. But among those things, his financial stability is one of the most important.
Seeing a person’s credit history and report can tell you how likely he is to honor financial arrangement. It can tell you whether or not he’s likely to miss rent payments or always complete them.
That’s because people’s financial histories tend to take on patterns. If people are constantly running out on bills or loans, they’re likely to do the same with a rent payment.
So, that’s why performing a credit check is part of our essential landlord tips and tricks for background checking. It completes one of the most important pieces of the applicant’s puzzle, so to speak.
Use a Background Checking Company
This is another of the invaluable landlord tips and tricks on background checks. Generally speaking, it’s better for you to hire a company to collect data on applicants than do it yourself.
That’s because if you don’t know what you’re doing or where to go for information, you’ll just waste time and money without actually getting the data you need.
Background checking companies, on the other hand, specialize in this. With something as simple as the applicant’s name and social security number, they can provide data like this:
- The applicant’s credit history.
- The applicant’s criminal history.
- The applicant’s educational background.
- The applicant’s rental and eviction history.
You’ll have to pay a fee for the background checking company to get all of that info, of course. However, here’s a bonus for our list of landlord tips and tricks on that note — you don’t need to pay the fee yourself!
That is, it’s legal in most places to ask applicants for a tenancy to cover the cost of background checking. Just be sure you disclose it to tenants when asking them to provide the fee.
Talk to Their Previous Landlords
This is one of the best landlord tips and tricks for evaluating applicants by their background. After all, if a former landlord can’t tell you what they’re like as renters, who can?
You may ask your tenancy applicants to submit contact details of their former landlords (if applicable) for reference. Then, when talking to their previous landlords, ask questions that let you get a picture of them as renters or leasers.
To be more precise, here are some landlord tips and tricks for questions to ask former landlords of applicants:
- How would you describe the applicant as a tenant?
- Were there any issues or disturbances liked to this applicant while he was your tenant?
- Were they ever late in paying rent? Was there a pattern of it?
- Would you rent to this tenant again in the future?
Getting information like this from fellow landlords is among the most useful of the many landlord tips and tricks out there. Best of all, this particular information is free!
Ask Relevant Questions in the Application Form
Here’s another of my favorite landlord tips and tricks. Just ask applicants in your tenancy application form as many questions as might be pertinent to their conduct as tenants.
I know I said earlier that the most useful information is often that which people don’t disclose themselves. However, in this case, even the disclosure (or non-disclosure) tells you something useful about the applicant.
If you conduct a background check later and find out they lied about something in the application form, that already gives you an idea of the person’s trustworthiness. That may not be an applicant worth renting to, then.
To round out this particular entry in our list of landlord tips and tricks, let’s look at some sample questions to put in your application form:
- What are your working hours like?
- Do you smoke? If yes, do you smoke indoors or outdoors?
- Do you have people who often spend the night in your domicile? Who are they?
- (This is one of the landlord tips and tricks applicable if you’re renting a place that allows pets.) Do you have pets? How many of them are there, what are they, and are they housebroken?
Request Pay Stubs or Employers’ Contact Details
Finally, we have another of the landlord tips and tricks for determining if applicants can support the cost of renting a place.
Asking for applicants’ pay stubs or checks can tell you if their salaries will allow them to make rent payments on time and in full.
You can also call their employers to verify their positions with a company or check that the applicants are truly employed where they claim to be.
If you call an employer, keep in mind that you’re not likely to be able to ask or verify the applicant’s salary, by the way. Most employers are not comfortable giving out that sort of information.
Still, they can tell you if the person does work for them or not, so that can still help you figure out if the applicant truly has a job.
And here’s another of my landlord tips and tricks — they can also give you insight into the applicant’s character, as they should be more familiar with him than you are.
Final Thoughts on Landlord Tips and Tricks for Background Checks
Today, we talk about landlord tips and tricks you can use when running background checks. Landlord tips and tricks for background checks are extremely useful because of the import of background checks in the rental business.
With a background check, a landlord can get an idea of which applicants would make good tenants and which would make bad ones. They can discover patterns in applicants’ behavior that may be relatively safe predictions of their future conduct as tenants.
The first of our landlord tips and tricks on this topic was to always run a credit check on an applicant. A credit check can provide information as to the applicant’s financial history — debt, evictions, bankruptcies, credit score, etc.
The next of our landlord tips and tricks was to use a background checking company. This is among our top landlord tips and tricks because it can drastically simplify the background checking process… and sometimes, doesn’t even need to cost you a cent!
The third of our landlord tips and tricks was to talk to applicants’ previous landlords. They can reveal deep insight into the way applicants behave once they’re tenants, after all.
We also included advice to ask relevant questions in your application form in this list of landlord tips and tricks. Finally, the last of our landlord tips and tricks was for you to contact applicants’ employers or request pay stubs to verify their gainful employment.
With these landlord tips and tricks, you can conduct your background checks as effectively and quickly as possible. So, keep these landlord tips and tricks in mind next time you screen and choose from tenant applications.
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