There are a lot of different parts to a solid tenant screening process. You’re going to check credit and measure income against rental amount. You’ll verify employment, conduct a criminal background check, and make sure all of the information provided to you matches the information you receive on the application.
Verifying rental history is an important part of your screening process, too. Rental history tells you a lot. It tells you how a tenant has performed in rental homes previously. It highlights any potential problems. It shows you whether a tenant is stable or likely to move around a lot.
Don’t skip over the rental history when you’re screening Memphis tenants. Make it the center point of your screening process.
We’re sharing some important tips on how to verify a potential tenant’s rental history. Use these, and you’ll find you ultimately place a well-qualified tenant who has been thoroughly screened.
Collect Rental History Information on Rental Applications
Verifying a potential tenant’s rental history starts with a thorough rental application that collects pertinent information and provides consent to check references and investigate rental histories.
On your application, make sure that you’re collecting information on the current place that your tenant lives as well as the last five or 10 years of their rental history. You want to look at dates and consider what they were paying in rent.
Ask for contact information for the current landlord and a former landlord. These are the references you’ll want to check. Before you do check these references, make sure you’re getting accurate information. If a tenant did not have a good rental experience, paid rent late, or caused trouble in their rental home, they likely will not want you talking to their landlord. They might instead provide contact information for family members or friends.
You can do a simple internet search to ensure you’re talking to the rightful property owner or their management company.
The rental application must grant you consent to contact these landlord references. Make sure your applicants sign off on this, otherwise you could find yourself dealing with privacy issues. Most of the application templates you get from property managers or rental associations will have the appropriate language.
Evaluate Credit Reports for Money Owed to Landlords
During the screening process, you’ll use the credit report for a number of things:
- You’ll make sure the credit score meets whatever criteria you’ve established for approvals.
- You’ll evaluate the amount of debt an applicant has, compared to what they earn.
- You’ll get an idea of whether the prospective tenant pays bills on time and handles money responsibly.
You can also use the credit report to verify rental history.
For starters, a credit report will list a current address and any former addresses. Check this against the addresses your applicant has provided. Are there discrepancies?
You can also use the credit report to find out whether the applicant still owes money to a former landlord, a utility company, or an apartment complex. These would be some red flags when it comes to deciding who you want to rent your property.
Look for Past Evictions
Evictions will sometimes show up on a credit report, but not always.
For self-managing landlords who do not have the benefit of working with a Memphis property management company, the best way to look for prior evictions is by searching local and state court records. Try the National Center for State Courts, which is pretty user-friendly and gets you to the proper courts that you’ll want to check for recent and prior evictions in Memphis and throughout Tennessee.
Once you’ve landed on the court site that you need, you can run a search on your applicant’s name. You won’t necessarily get the details of the eviction, but you will know that it occurred. Did your tenant disclose this on the application?
The past eviction, remember, does not necessarily mean you’re screening a horrible tenant. Wrongful evictions do happen, and if your tenant was upfront with this information and provided details on the situation, you may consider renting to that tenant. Some landlords, however, have a strict policy against approving tenants with evictions.
It’s important to be consistent. Decide what you’re willing to work with and what you’re not willing to work with when it comes to evictions. Include that in your standard qualifying rental criteria and hold all tenants to the same standards when it comes to prior evictions.
It’s logical to start with state records when it comes to eviction. Checking national eviction records, however, is even better. If you don’t have access to this information, reach out to a tenant screening company or a local property manager who can help.
Contact Current and Former Memphis Landlords
Actual reference checks may seem time consuming and unnecessary, but if you really want to dig into your prospective tenant’s rental history, it’s worth your time to do them. Call the landlord references on the phone or send an email with some questions. Some of the things we recommend you ask include:
- How long did the tenant live in your property?
- What is the address of your rental property?
- How much did the tenant pay?
- Was rent paid on time? If rent was late, how often was it late and how quickly did the tenant catch up? Did you ever have to serve notices or threaten eviction?
- Was there property damage left behind after the tenant left? How much of the security deposit did they get back?
- Did the tenant provide adequate notice before vacating?
- Were the lease terms followed faithfully?
- Did the tenant report maintenance issues in a timely manner?
These questions will give you an idea about how the tenant behaves in a rental property. You can also ask about pets and whether there were ever complaints from neighbors.
Always ask former landlords if they’d rent to this tenant again. The answer will tell you almost everything you need to know.
This is how you verify rental history when you’re renting out a Memphis property. We’d be happy to help you with the screening process. Please contact us at RiverTown Realty.