When you are a landlord, you need to rent to good people. Screening tenants for your rental property will be the key to your success. The tenant can be of any race, religion, nation origin, etc. Screening tenants will determine the experience that you will have and how much money you have the potential to make regardless of any protected class. After all, making money is the goal of a landlord. Providing housing, is secondary.
I would say that almost all people with a credit score of 625+, and a household income of $45K a year with a rent of ~$1,125, with a minimal criminal background and a clean rental history will make for a decent tenant. Of course, a decent deposit will also be necessary.
Here are a few instances I recently came across with screening tenants, that shows what a landlord is up against in regards to tenant screening.
I have a currently opening in my apartments, it is the fourth turnover this year. I get all sort of applicants, some would be good tenants, some would be bad tenants. Most all of them are great people just looking for a place to live. Some are great in the searching stage, but how would they be if they were behind on rent, and you needed answers from them? Knowing how to Screen tenants is an important skill to have.
When I get a response from my on-line ads, it is generally an email response. If I get a text, I immediately send a response of “Please text me your email address, and I can send you some additional information about insert address here”
I will then typically get an email address texted right back and I can respond via email. If I get a call, I answer any questions, and then I request their email address, so I can send them a standard response. When I show a unit, it is often the first time I have seen, or spoke with a live person. Much of my screening is completed without ever seeing who my potential renter is. It helps eliminate any bias.
Here is my latest response for my property I have advertised. It answers the most common questions I have had in the past and gives a brief overview of the apartment. I get hundreds of inquires after I advertise for a week, so I need to have a streamlined system.
The Standard Response
“Thank you for inquiring on insert address here.
This unit will be available September 16, 2016. There is a possibility it may be available slightly earlier.
This is a three bedroom, one bath unit. It is a non-smoking building.
I will be looking for tenants with a 625+ credit score, and a solid household income of at least ~$45,000 per year. If you are marginal on both of these items, I will generally decline you. Your criminal and rental history must be clean. If you have had a foreclosure, I can work with you a bit on this.
I have a Real Estate license, so if you are preparing to buy a home, this is a perfect fit. If you purchase a home through me, I can make sure the lease transition is easy, and also give you up to $500 back at closing to help with your moving expenses or anything you want.
Pets are allowed, however no Akita, Chow, Pit-bull, Rottweiler, or any cross breed with wolf are allowed. A $25 fee per pet is a general rule of thumb.
There is a tandem garage, one car parks in front of the other. There are two flights of stairs to get into the unit. After that, it is all one level. There is a washer and dryer in the unit. The unit has one window air conditioner, and it works very well.
I have tenants in the unit, so I need to give advance notice for showing. I generally show the unit on weekends between 11 AM and 4 PM and sometimes during the week between 6 PM and 7 PM. You will need to schedule an appointment first, and then confirm the appointment ~30 minutes before you arrive.
I do not take Section 8. If you have had an eviction, or you have had recent criminal activity including DUIs, I generally will pass on you. If you are not a legal resident of the USA, I will not be able to rent to you as I cannot perform a valid background check.
The rent price includes water, sewer, garbage, lawn maintenance and snow removal. It does not include gas or electric, which runs ~$125 per month. The deposit is $1,300.
If you are still interested and want to look at the apartment, please let me know.
Additional Pictures with link to a virtual tour
Eric phone, email”
The first applicant for my apartment was a decent person. She came prepared, with application in hand, all filled out. She indicated she had no evictions and no criminal convictions. She had $40 cash for an application fee. I took the application that day, continued to show the unit, and then went home to process it. Red Flag: Beware of anyone that is too eager to rent your apartment
I ran a quick search on our Minnesota Court site search on her name. I saw an eviction from 2010. I know the eviction was a while ago, and that can be excused. The lie was on my application today, that is a larger issue.
I emailed her back.
“I see an eviction from Welsh Companies filed on 7/13/2010. You did not disclose that on the application.
What is the story behind it, and why was it not disclosed on the application?”
Tenant One Response
“I was living with my ex-boyfriend, I had to move out due to domestic violent. I had an agreement with my landlord, and I wasn’t aware of that eviction. As far as I know that was settle I wasn’t notified about that at all. It was between them and my ex-boyfriend.”
Tenant One Conclusion
I did see the eviction coincided with an arrest of her boyfriend that was named in the eviction. The eviction was for non-payment of rent. She should have squared away the eviction by getting it expunged from her name. She should have listed the eviction on the application, as I very much doubt that she was unaware of it.
I refunded her $40 and moved onto the next applicant(s).
Applicant two applied. He was a veteran, and appeared solid. The household income was a bit light, but slightly above the minimum. If the credit scores were solid, they would be fine.
I ran a quick search on our Minnesota Court site search. I find a first degree burglary, filed as a misdemeanor in 2003. First degree burglary is something that I want to know about, and this one was a long time ago. It could be OK, but it was not disclosed. So I inquired.
“I am currently processing an application from a tenant that submitted an application prior to yours. I did do some preliminary checking on your applications. I see that you checked that you were never convicted of a crime. In 2003 it appears you were convicted of a crime. Can you explain that?
You say you have $8,000 in income, although you are a full-time student. How do you make $8,000 as a student?”
Tenant Two Response
“Sorry I wasn’t trying to hide that I was convicted of a crime back in 2003. I was convicted of 1st Degree Burglary, a felony charge. I was the driver of a couple of friends that robbed a house. I was sentenced to 120 days of house arrest and 3-year supervised probation. After 9 months of good behavior I was switched to unsupervised probation. Then after the 3 years were done the felony got changed to a misdemeanor.
As for the income I use the Post 9/11 GI Bill that pays for all my schooling and also give you a monthly check for housing allowance.”
Tenant Two Conclusion
Thank you for the explanation. I decided to pass on your application(s). I did not run any credit check, so it will not impact your credit score.
If the tenant would have been truthful, and his time after probation was clean for 10 years, he probably would have been accepted.
Max, The Entitlement Tenant
I refer to this tenant as Max, as that was his name. I sent him the email, and he responds
First off, your text messaging as very unprofessional. I have a credit score of about 800 i think its 780 something. I make about 30k a year and my other roomate should at lest make 10k. However 40k seems really high as a requirement, if I made 40k i would definitely not live there. And idk who would. Idk if this is your property or if you are a realitor? But either way you are not someone I would want to deal with.
Thanks for your time(the 2 mins you spent on me) I will find another place. Max
Thank you, it is $45,000 for a household income. It is a government recommendation that people do not pay more than 30% of their household income in rent.
That is all roommates together. We have people making almost $200,000 a year living there. We have doctors, pilots, school teachers and bunch of the rest of the mix.
I do agree, a different complex would be best for you.
The Conclusion of Max
Max lacks control of the English language, but I will give him the benefit of the doubt on this part. Texting with small buttons is prone to errors.
Max thought that my $45K household income was too high, and if he made that much, he would live somewhere else. That is highly doubtful.
The minimum in our complex is $40K. There are a lot of reasons for a minimum income in the complex, and one reason is it creates a higher incentive for the investors to maintain their property. People with a $40K income will not live in a $700 dump. They can move. The average household income is well over $60K in this area. If you only make $40K a year in household income, good luck finding a place that is affordable in my area.
Max thought I was very unprofessional. I have never heard that before. Perhaps if I said to him “If you look in the mirror and see trash, this place is not for you”, he may have a point.
With a $1,125 rent, you need to make $45K a year in order to pay 30% of your income. Even paying 30% is a struggle for many. I want my rent on-time. I do not want your car troubles to be mine. I do this for my household, not yours.
Good riddance Max.
Update: I took an application from two girls and received an $80 in application fees. They passed, but only used the application fee as an option to hold the apartment for a few days. They eventually rented somewhere else.
I took another application from a brother/sister combination along with $1,000 to hold the unit. One dog. They passed with flying colors and I will not have any vacancy.
Was I too hard on the applicants? Did I make the right decision? I am still vacant as I write this, so maybe I will regret it?