A Landlord Refresher: Screening Tenants

I just came across a story about someone who has rented three places in the last three years with fake references and credit reports. The Equifax report that the tenant supplied was doctored and the references were all friends of the scammer.

Landlords, please pay for a credit report when screening tenants.  If you are renting your place out with the help of a licensed sales representative or broker, ask them to pay for a new report.  The report that tenants pull up doesn’t have payment factors and you can’t verify that the report has not been doctored. If you order your own, you’ll see all kinds of information like aliases, former addresses and employers.  These are all things that can be used to verify that the rental application was filled out correctly. If an applicant doesn’t want you to run a credit report, don’t rent to them.

If the credit score is in the 800s, you have yourself a star applicant and someone who is likely to pay rent on time every month.  Someone in the 700s is likely also great.  Someone in the 600s may have had some trouble paying bills in the past or may just have thin credit, or not a lot of credit history, which is more common with young people.  A lot of tenant applicants score in this zone, so you’ll have to satisfy yourself with each particular applicant using all of the other information.

If someone applies to rent your place and they are selling their home because they are in trouble, their score may be low and you must decide if you are willing to take this risk.  What does their current home look like?  And, just because that home is well maintained, doesn’t mean they won’t damage yours.  And just because they will have a large infusion of cash at the closing of their home, doesn’t mean they will pay rent on time every month.  Sticking to an over 650 rule will likely help weed out any applicants who don’t pay their bills on time, but it’s not a guarantee.

If an applicant lies on an application, don’t rent to them. Verify that you have the correct Landlord for their previous or current home.  If the wrong name is listed for a reference, this is not someone that you want to rent to.  It’s easy for sales representatives and brokers to verify this information, so it’s probably best to involve a professional who has had lots of experience with rentals.

A google search will pull up all kinds of information including verification of the applicant’s place of employment. You can also google the name on the employment letter and make sure that the person who signed the letter actually works for the company. I also call the company using a number that I’ve looked up myself instead of the number provided by the applicant.

One last tip is when you are handing over keys, ask for identification.  Is the person who is getting the keys the same person who you are renting to?  Is the last name different?  If so, I would ask why.  Check the identification from everyone on the lease. People who use aliases don’t make good tenants.

When you move in a good tenant, you’ll get your rent paid on time every month.  But keep records, just in case things change. If a tenant suddenly asks to change the date when rent is due, say “No”.  It’s usually fine to let one month come in later, but changing the date from now until the end of the lease is usually a sign of trouble to come.  Keep all NSF cheque records. And if you are missing one whole month of rent, please follow up with the correct paperwork so that if you end up in a Tribunal, all of your ducks are in a row.  That paperwork is the topic of another blog, but you can find everything you need on the Social Justice Tribunals webpage.  http://www.sjto.gov.on.ca/ltb/

 

 

 

 

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