Any property manager would agree that they want to fill up vacancies as quickly as possible. It is quite understandable as vacant properties do not generate any income and cost a lot to maintain. But that does not necessarily mean you can rent it out to any applicant that comes knocking. Choosing the right tenant, who would pay rent regularly and take good care of your property is very important.
And what better way to understand the kind of tenants they will be than to hear it from their previous landlords?
Obtaining rental history
A rental history is simply a documentation of your previous tenancies, with addresses, landlord information and even rent payment record and eviction history. Sometimes, it may include a person’s criminal history as well. It basically helps you make a decision if an applicant is trustworthy or not.
It is prudent to inform your applicants beforehand, that will be looking into their rental history. You can include an agreement to release an information form along with the rental application, or better still, mention it as a requirement in your listing. This may deter applicants who have a poor rental history. An applicant is well within rights to refuse it, but it gives you no credible way to verify their information.
Of course, many new-gen renters may not have a comprehensive rental history but there are other ways to determine if they can be good tenants, like proof of income or tax returns.
Contact previous landlords
Contacting an applicant’s previous landlords is a standard part of tenant screening. You would want to know if they were responsible tenants, paid rent on time and someone that is reliable. It may be a time consuming process, but may save you a lot of time and money in terms of damages and eviction processes later.
What questions should you ask landlord references?
- How long did they stay on their property?
- Did they pay rent on time?
- Are they good in communication?
- How neat do they keep the property, were there any major damages?
- Were they amicable with neighbors?
Simple questions such as the ones above may help provide important insights into an applicant. When landlords like their tenants it shows in how easily they are willing to talk about them. You may also want to ask questions you have about the applicant after you met them.
Be wary of fake references
Unfortunately, a number applicants provide the contact information of close friends as landlord references. They may have bad rental history or may have simply forgotten their previous landlords’ information. But if you find that an applicant lied on their application, it is a major warning and you should consider declining their application.
So how can you make sure the references are real?
One simple way to tell if the reference is real is to ask them to verify information about the applicant, like the dates of their tenancy, rent paid etc. Also note if they have substantial information to give about the applicant or if they simply go along with the information you provide,. You can also check listings of the rental address and verify the landlord’s information.
A tenant’s past behaviour at their rental properties and their relationships with landlords are indicative of how they will treat you and your property. Despite being time consuming, verifying rental history of your applicants and screening them may help you choose the right tenant for your property.