“How Can You Use Rental History To Screen Tenants” written by Mike Marko
Do you know what should be included in a rental history background check?
What you find when digging into the rental history of a potential renter can play a significant role in your tenant screening process. The past can help you predict the future.
That’s why I want to take the time to help you make sure you get all you can from evaluating the potential tenant’s rental history.
The Rental Applicant’s Rental History
Let’s dig into the applicant’s rental history. But first…
What Is Rental History
Rental history is the history or record of the renter’s previous renting experiences. Many property managers and landlords consider this as an important part of their rental application.
Past rental history can help you develop an idea of how this person has lived, communicated with past landlords, and treated the properties they have rented in the past.
Looking into the renter’s past can be helpful in a lot of ways.
Can You Deny A Rental Application By Just Looking To Its Rental History?
When a prospective renter walks into your office to rent a property, you know nothing about this person. To begin the process of finding out if you want to rent to this person you should have a complete background screening process that includes past rental history.
When the possible renter agrees to undergo a tenant screening process, that’s when your job to get to know who this person starts and it ends with determining if they are the most qualified to rent the vacant property.
If you determine through interviews with past landlords that the possible renter has had a bad rental history, this is an immediate red flag of possibly not renting to them. If you find that a prospective renter has unpaid debts, has damaged previous properties and left unpaid rental balances, this should immediately disqualify them from renting your properties.
Doing a complete rental history background check is a major part of the tenant screening process. However, this is only the beginning of determining if you have found the most qualified renter for your property.
A Good Rental History
The best or most qualified renter for a property is someone who has a good rental history.
An example of a good rental history doesn’t contain any bad events such as bounced checks, late rental payments, breach of lease terms and eviction proceedings.
In most cases, renters with a stable job had a good rental history because they could regularly pay their bills on time.
Every landlord is legally allowed to set the terms and conditions for renting their property. However, they must not violate anti-discrimination laws. According to The Federal Fair Housing Acts (42 U.S. Code §§ 3601-3619), landlords are not allowed to deny a rental application by judging the renter’s race, color, religion, national origin, gender, age, familial status (having children), and physical or mental disability (including alcoholism and past drug addiction).
A landlord can prohibit smokers and pet owners in renting their property because they are not protected by anti-discrimination laws. Also, a renter that has a bad credit history, criminal records or eviction records could be rejected.
Whether it’s for health, business or safety reason, a landlord had the right to limit the number of roommates. However, a low occupancy standard that could eliminate families with children is prohibited according to fair housing laws. This issue is discussed in Discrimination Prohibited By Federal Laws.
For the rental history issue, a landlord has the right to retrieve the renter’s past renting activities.
You should always check with State and Local rental laws to avoid any discriminatory or unfair process involved with renting a property.
Why do Landlords Require Rental History
Landlords and property manager as a normal process ask for a rental history from prospective renters to help in determining if they are the most qualified to rent the property to.
There are a number of ways where you can check the renter’s rental history. In most cases, tenant screening companies include this on their report. But if the landlord is not relying on any tenant screening company, he could and should as part of the process call the renter’s previous landlords.
Speaking with past landlords, you can get an idea of how the possible renter has treated past rental properties, if they left unpaid rent or damage to the properties, paid their rent on time, and get an understanding of their living habits.
A landlord could also check the renter’s rental history by using the internet. Numerous websites are primarily created for checking rental history.
Credit History As Part Of Rental History
By requesting a credit history, the landlord could learn the renter’s bankruptcies, evictions and other blemishes on its credit activities. Technically speaking, reviewing the renter’s credit report is enough but many landlords from different states also require rental history.
When doing a credit check, make sure that you have the proper authorizations signed by the possible renter so you can run and evaluate their credit history and credit score.
Guide In Asking About Rental History
If the landlord decides to do the rental screening on its own, he could check the renter’s rental history by calling at least two of its previous landlords.
Landlords could consider using these questions in assessing the renter’s rental history.
- Is there anything that could prevent you from paying the rent on time?
- Why are you moving?
- Have you been evicted?
- Are you caught up paying your past landlords?
While interviewing the renter, use their answers to ask additional questions. Get to details… and by asking additional questions you may uncover “truths” you may not have found out otherwise.
What Do You Do With The Rental History?
Now that you have the potential tenant’s rental history, you are prepared to decide if you want to rent to them.
You have the information you need to determine if:
- They will take care of the rental property.
- Pay the rent on time.
- Be respectful to the neighbors.
The more information you have at your fingertips, the better decision you can make. Just keep in mind, even the best rental history process isn’t foolproof.
Final Thoughts On Using Rental History To Screen Tenants
Every aspect of the tenant’s screening report is important. Whenever you are reviewing a tenant’s rental history, you should consider the future and safety of your other tenants and rental properties before making a decision. Your decision could not only affect you but also everything else related to your property management business.
Just remember to keep smiling, and let the facts of your rental history evaluation determine whether to allow the tenant to rent from you.
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