The Coronavirus pandemic has changed a lot about the way we live and work every day. That's as true for landlords and Castle Hills property management as it is for the rest of the world. However, one thing hasn't changed: the need for quality renters.
With everything up in the air, one of the biggest mistakes a landlord can make is accepting any tenant they can get, simply because they feel like they have no other option. Now more than ever, tenant screening matters.
One of the major advantages of working with the experts in Castle Hills property management is having access to their advanced tenant screening process. A crisis brings out both the best and the worst in people, and scammers don't stop scamming just because there's a pandemic. Here is some insight into how we screen applicants—and what to watch out for if you choose to do it yourself.
A quick foreword: This article is not intended as a substitute for legal advice. If you're facing a challenge that requires the skills of a competent attorney or expert Castle Hills property management, reach out for more guidance!
Why Tenant Screening Matters
Of all the challenges landlords face, tenant screening can be one of the most overwhelming. This is partly because the stakes are high: bad tenants can create all kinds of problems. Additionally, screening can be very difficult if you don't have the resources of a professional property management company. Some of the biggest issues caused by improper screening include:
- Drained time, resources, and money
- Damage to your Castle Hills property
- Lost and late rent every month
- Broken lease terms and property abandonment.
It's also worth keeping in mind that it can be very difficult to evict a tenant in the state of Texas. Even before the tenant protections put in place during the novel Coronavirus outbreak, landlords have always had a heavy burden to justify evicting a renter. It requires a lot of time and effort on the landlord's part.
In some cases, evictions can lead to lengthy and expensive legal battles. It's better to avoid all of this from the start by screening your tenants ahead of time and weeding out potential "problem" tenants.
What to Look For
One of the most important things to remember when screening tenants is fairness. All prospective tenants must be viewed on equal ground—which can be difficult in times of crisis. To avoid any potential feelings of discrimination, these are the pieces you should use to put together a complete picture of a potential tenant:
- Credit check
- Proof of their current income
- Background and criminal checks
- Previous rental history.
These bits of information should paint a fairly accurate picture of a candidate's financial responsibility and stability—along with their willingness and ability to pay rent on time. This can be challenging in and of itself: after all, we're evaluating people, not just sets of data. That being said, the data is usually a good place to start.
Tenant Screening Red Flags
Beyond the basics of a background check, there are a few other ways to identify problem tenants and watch out for potential scams. Now more than ever, it's important to be wary of these red flags.
- Tenants offering cash upfront: Watch out for tenants who offer cash upfront—especially if they offer multiple months' worth of rent upfront. This might make it tempting to let them in, but it also suggests a problem. Why would a tenant want to pay more now? Is there a reason they won't be able to pay rent in the coming months? This is not always an indicator that you will be taken advantage of, but Professional Tenants love to use 'flash' and 'glitz.'
- Scam artists taking advantage of panic: It's a sad thing, but during times of upheaval such as the current COVID-19 pandemic, all kinds of scammers come out of the woodwork. Watch out for scams, such as bad checks and tenants who overpay and then ask you to wire them back the extra amount. These are old tricks that we've seen more and more since the pandemic started.
The Advantage of Professional Tenant Screening
Working with your Castle Hills property management partner offers you access to a wealth of background screening resources, making it much easier to find good tenants. In addition to checking credit scores and verifying income, professional property managers have access to more thorough background screening resources, including:
- The National Sex Offender Registry
- The National Criminal Alias Search
- Public Records
- Social Security Fraud Search
- National Eviction Lookup
- Previous Landlord Verification
- Employment Verification.
Just as importantly, working with a professional ensures that your background and pet screening processes are fair, unbiased, and in compliance with all applicable laws—including the Fair Housing Act and Fair Credit Reporting Act. This is essential for the protection of renters and landlords alike.
Work With a Castle Hills Property Manager
Having background screening conducted by an experienced property management company also saves you a lot of time and headaches. As the owner of a rental property, screening tenants simply isn't the best use of your time and energy—especially during difficult times like the ones we're living through now. When you need to direct your efforts toward protecting your portfolio and ensuring the continued survival of your business, it's best to leave tenant screening to the pros.
One of those exact survival strategies right now should be how you approach rent collection as a DIY property owner. For many, we know this is a frightening time for your finances—but it's crucial that you take a measured, professional, and compassionate tack. You can learn more by downloading a copy of our Collecting Rent in a Crisis Handbook! We're happy to offer this at no cost to property owners right now to help reduce some of your stress.