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Tenant screening
Old 04-26-2007, 12:34 PM   #1
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Tenant screening

I screen a bunch over the phone - figure that's a good way to avoid any hint of discrimination against a member of a protected class. Tend to screen against people who sound like mouth breathers or trailer trash. Prefer to rent to people I get along with - why set myself up for an adverserial relationship?

Just had a call from a gal whose second question, after location, was "do you have a screening fee?". We don't, but that question set me up to screen her out - if the primary concern is whether there is a $18-$30 charge, and that determines where one chooses to live, then I don't want to rent to them. Also aren't interested in people who say they don't care what a place looks like - I care what a place looks like and I'd like to rent to people who want to live in and maintain a nice place.

Like to talk with people a bit - if they are evasive or tight lipped about their work or past history that's not a good sign. Good handwriting helps. A tidy car interior helps.

I don't do credit checks, but I do ask what a credit report will show - most people will fess up to problems. Don't much care if someone has past credit problems if they have a job and their current spending habits look or sound good.

Mostly go with gut feeling - get stung some, but over the last 20 years and current 50-odd units it's worked out fairly well. How about the rest of you landlords?
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Re: Tenant screening
Old 04-26-2007, 12:58 PM   #2
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Re: Tenant screening

I don't have your finely developed gut feel, so one time I paid a Realtor(TM) to advertise and vet the tennants for me. That was a disaster that resulted in eviction.

The last time I rented a place, I used Mr. Landlord for a credit check, and that worked out fine.
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Re: Tenant screening
Old 04-26-2007, 02:35 PM   #3
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Re: Tenant screening

Quote:
Originally Posted by calmloki
Mostly go with gut feeling - get stung some, but over the last 20 years and current 50-odd units it's worked out fairly well. How about the rest of you landlords?
A husband & wife realtor team, neighbors of ours who buy an investment property every year or two, run a credit check and look for tenants above 650. They're pretty no-nonsense folk who have developed a keen sense for tenant danger.

We've listed our home with military bases & websites-- very successful.

Our latest tenant came as a referral. We were vacationing in San Antonio (first time ever) and had lunch with a shipmate whom we hadn't seen in two years. We mentioned that we were going to have to rehab our rental when we got back home and she asked "How much will you be charging for rent?" The way she asked the question made me reflexively ask "$2800, do you have someone in mind?" It turned out that a shipmate of hers was retiring from active duty and wanted to move back to Hawaii that next month for a civil-service job. The rest was arranged by e-mail & Photobucket, they mailed a deposit, and the lease was signed the day we met the tenants (one day after they got off the plane). Everyone feels like they got 60% of this deal...
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Re: Tenant screening
Old 04-26-2007, 03:45 PM   #4
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Re: Tenant screening

One thing that I used to do when I showed a property, After the showing walk the tennants out to their car. A new or old car doesn't matter. What matters is if they treat their car like a garbage dumpster with hamburger wrappers and starbucks cups everywhere. If that's the case then that's how they are going to treat your property - and you. I found this car gauge to be pretty reliable. Those with tidy cars were almost always pretty good tennants and vice versa.

But even after careful screening a few will reveal themselves to be problem tennants.

Screening tennants is an art learned through the school of hard knocks and life lessons !

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Re: Tenant screening
Old 04-26-2007, 05:01 PM   #5
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Re: Tenant screening

Calmloki
I wouldn't screen out a tenant because of the "screening fee". In some areas landlords make more money collecting these "fees" than they do renting the property. I'd give them credit for asking the question. I'm screening them I don't mind being screened back.

I have been a landlord for 25 years and have never run a credit report.
A good tenant with a dinged credit report is more likely to be long term than the perfect credit person that can go anywhere.

I also love the Lookie Loos. I'm usually doing a project between tenants so I always have them come by at my convenience. Good practice and sometimes you can pick up some interesting info on other properties because they've seen everything.

I just got back from Honolulu to replace a 14 month tenant who initially signed a 6 month lease because I wasn't sure if I wanted to do a monthly vacation rental on this property. My tenant only left because he was tired of Waikiki living. The tenant on the other side is still in 9 months past the initial lease period termination.

The new tenants asked for an application. I always ask why they want an application. I tell them they either want the place or not. If they're interested I'll get some basic info and talk a bit. Usually I have 3-10 valid applicants that I choose the one that best fits my needs and that I feel will best appreciate my property.

I have a 6 year tenant in Diamond Head and a 1 year tenant that told me how happy she was to be my tenant. I have a relationship with these people that goes beyond landlord/tenant and I cultivated that from the start by using my gut instinct. Sounds like you developed the same skill.

I have also rented to the same name multiple times with great success. There was white ___, Black ___, Hawaiian ___ and Vegas cop ____. I'm saving the name in case I write my landlord book or do my seminar





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Re: Tenant screening
Old 04-26-2007, 05:55 PM   #6
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Re: Tenant screening

Quote:
Originally Posted by honobob
Calmloki
I wouldn't screen out a tenant because of the "screening fee". In some areas landlords make more money collecting these "fees" than they do renting the property. I'd give them credit for asking the question. I'm screening them I don't mind being screened back.

I have been a landlord for 25 years and have never run a credit report.
A good tenant with a dinged credit report is more likely to be long term than the perfect credit person that can go anywhere.

I also love the Lookie Loos. I'm usually doing a project between tenants so I always have them come by at my convenience. Good practice and sometimes you can pick up some interesting info on other properties because they've seen everything.

I just got back from Honolulu to replace a 14 month tenant who initially signed a 6 month lease because I wasn't sure if I wanted to do a monthly vacation rental on this property. My tenant only left because he was tired of Waikiki living. The tenant on the other side is still in 9 months past the initial lease period termination.

The new tenants asked for an application. I always ask why they want an application. I tell them they either want the place or not. If they're interested I'll get some basic info and talk a bit. Usually I have 3-10 valid applicants that I choose the one that best fits my needs and that I feel will best appreciate my property.

I have a 6 year tenant in Diamond Head and a 1 year tenant that told me how happy she was to be my tenant. I have a relationship with these people that goes beyond landlord/tenant and I cultivated that from the start by using my gut instinct. Sounds like you developed the same skill.

I have also rented to the same name multiple times with great success. There was white ___, Black ___, Hawaiian ___ and Vegas cop ____. I'm saving the name in case I write my landlord book or do my seminar
Sounds like we have much the same style - the right off the bat timing of the question about screening fees was more the issue than the question itself - and, really, probably her tone of voice. If someone sounds likely I urge them to ask any tenants they see about me, or ask if they know so-and-so (a current or former tenant) at their workplace or school.

My gal says I like to rent to damaged goods people - kinda true - if you are decent to someone who's just been through a divorce/layoff/illness they appreciate it and are easy to deal with. We've had people rent 2-3 different places from us, moving from town to town. In fact our painters rented 2 of our apartments, then a house, then bought the house we moved out of next door, so they are now our neighbors!

We do have people fill out 1/2 page applications - good contact data that I staple to the contract, also sometimes cues me to talking points I might have missed - "so you haven't rented here in Oregon before? Or, so your landlord is your sister/mother/aunt"? Mostly the written application doesn't have much to do with whether they become our tenants though.

We've had multiple tenants with the same name at the same time - worst was the 3 Matts - and two of them sounded the same on the phone. Matt would call with a plumbing problem or to tell me his check would be late and I'd try to figure out which Matt in what town had the problem!
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Re: Tenant screening
Old 04-26-2007, 08:01 PM   #7
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Re: Tenant screening

Are you sure you know the reason she asked? I could see asking a question like that just so she could be ready with the fee if you did charge.

IMO (not that you asked) if you want to vet out people who are unduly concerned about this sort of thing, then maybe you should go ahead and charge a small fee. That will turn those people away, and you can just deal with the folks who are serious enough to pay. You can turn around and take it out of the chosen tenant's first month's rent, if you really don't want the money, and you can return the fee for the ones you reject.

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Re: Tenant screening
Old 04-27-2007, 08:58 AM   #8
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Re: Tenant screening

Quote:
Originally Posted by LKH
Are you sure you know the reason she asked? I could see asking a question like that just so she could be ready with the fee if you did charge.

IMO (not that you asked) if you want to vet out people who are unduly concerned about this sort of thing, then maybe you should go ahead and charge a small fee. That will turn those people away, and you can just deal with the folks who are serious enough to pay. You can turn around and take it out of the chosen tenant's first month's rent, if you really don't want the money, and you can return the fee for the ones you reject.

L
I don't charge a fee because I don't go to the sub-$15 expense of a credit check and I'm irked by extra charges that should be a part of the course of business. Some landlords use the screening fee as another profit stream. Like "handling charges". "I'm a shopkeeper - pay me extra to hand you the can of soup you just bought". Just a dang curmudgeon today. Where's a kid I can yell at to get off our lawn?

You are right, there are people who are very concerned that they be able to fulfill their obligations, and they can be the best renters, but there was a subtle difference between this woman's question and the tenant who is very concerned about how she will make a payment on time - the tenant to whom I can say "It's ok, all is well, we're just fine - I'm not worried about this payment because you are".

A credit check is smart and should be a part of screening; most of our one bedroom apartments go for $400 or less and many of our otherwise outstanding tenants would not pass a credit check. It would be smart to turn them away. We don't turn them all away, and it usually works out ok; sometimes it doesn't and credit screening might have saved us.
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Re: Tenant screening
Old 04-28-2007, 11:41 AM   #9
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Re: Tenant screening

I do credit checks but I use a mental ranking system for the type of late pays they have. Medical bills that aren't paid on time get little scrutiny, and previous evictions get's you a "no go" at this station. Over the years it has boiled down to gut instincts. I can qualify a person over the phone in about 10 minutes. A big alarm is when they try to negotiate the rent over the phone. That gets you a "no go" as well.
Once, I took a chance on a lady that got out of jail on drug charges. At first I said no way but later changed my mind and that lady ended up being one of the cleanest renters I've ever had. She even paid on time and if she didn't, her late fee was included without me reminding her. I think being a good landlord is about be a good people person. Kind of reminds me of my favorite movie "Gone in 60 seconds." The old shop keeper says, "Look around, I'm all about second chances." That philosophy has benefitted me more than it has burned me when it comes to tenants.
But then you get the applicant with the driver's license that says she's 25 and her credit report says she was born in 1954. So in the end you have to trust your gut.
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Re: Tenant screening
Old 04-30-2007, 10:16 AM   #10
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Re: Tenant screening

have them fill out a thorough rental application, gage their response to req. for credit report and info (though haven't run one yet), call employer or past landlord.
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Re: Tenant screening
Old 05-01-2007, 09:04 AM   #11
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Re: Tenant screening

Here's the screening tips that have saved my butt:
  • put the EXACT address in the ad and a phone number where they'll leave a message ... do NOT answer the phone. The message will tell most of the tale.
  • Now return calls to only most coherent messages setting up BULK showings. Had way too many no-shows for private showings.
  • Show-up early because the good ones will be early; have applications in hand.
  • Spend equal time with everyone and explain that you need to see 3x's the rent as income. Paystubs are best; but a phone call to your employer will also work. Most who do not qualify will walk.
  • Get a reference from the former-landlord. Not the current landlord ... this refferal will be tainted.
  • Once the best applicant has been identified ... GO TO THIER HOUSE to tell them a. You're offering the unit to them or (if the place is a junk-yard) b. the unit has been offered to someone else.
  • Repeat this process until $$ is in hand.
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