Do you have a defined and consistent tenant screening process for your rental properties? This may seem like a simple question, but I am surprised how many landlords don’t really have an easy, thorough and legal process.
Are you still driving around with stacks of paper applications and having the tenants fill them out? I used to do this. You would wait for 20-30 minutes after a showing for the tenant to fill out the form. They would fill it out partially or maybe you could not read their handwriting. All the while you are just sitting in your vehicle watching them write on a piece of paper. We no process all of our rental applications online.
With the large volume of units that we fill on a monthly basis, there would be no way to keep track of all that paper! Now, I just hand out a business card with the URL to the application on the back. Some tenants will go sit in their car and fill it out on their phone, others will wait a day or two. Plus, all the payments are done via PayPal, so I don’t have to collect payment and deposit checks! Once I see an application come in, I simply press one button to have the screening process begin.
I meet landlords all the time that still rely on free county websites to do their tenant screening. Not only is this time-consuming, they are relying on the information put on the application. What about the place that they lived 2 years ago that the trashed and didn’t put it on their app (instead they said they were living with family)? I use Rental Research for all our screening. They give me a very complete picture of credit, criminal and rental history for each tenant. They then call the owner of the property for everywhere the tenant has lived in the last 7 years (based upon information off the tenant’s credit report).
In Minnesota, by law, a landlord is required to post a list of criteria for rental applications. Do you have this? In the old days, when we used paper applications, I would have the tenant sign that paper. Now, it is part of the online application process that they must accept that criteria. Not only am I complying with the law, I can prove that they saw the criteria because they can’t apply without accepting it! Also, because I use a Rental Research to do all my screenings, the process is consistent. It is the same and consequently is less likely for it to be seen as discriminatory. Plus, since a 3rd party is the one that is asking the same questions of each landlord reference, there is virtually no chance for someone to claim slander. Lastly, you are required to mail the tenant screening result to every tenant that is denied.
If you are a Minnesota landlord, take the time to upgrade your tenant screening process. Don’t wait to find out you are doing it wrong when you get sued by a tenant or contacted by the housing agency!