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Mobile Home Tenant Screening Guide

by John Fedro on September 4, 2010 · 4 comments

  

Ultimately whoever occupies your investment home is your decision.  The choice of who will move-in, maintain and occupy your investment property should be carefully screened and cherry picked until you have the “perfect” tenant or tenant-buyer.  Let’s get real, “In many areas of the country some landlords are fighting over the scarcity of renters in the market.”

After only a handful of year’s managing properties I have come to agree with the classic 80/20 rule.  Eighty percent of the tenant problems that will arise are caused by only twenty percent of the residence. Therefore the worst part for me is knowing that most of these problems could have been avoided if I had spent five extra minutes qualifying each tenant before I allowed them access into my investment home.

So there is the dilemma; Do you rent/rent-to-own your home now to a less than qualified tenant with first and last months rent or do you wait (and continue paying holding costs) for Mr. & Mrs. Right?

Being a landlord isn’t always easy, you are responsible for making snap determinations for who can and cannot live in your home.  Not only that but you have only a short period of time (days) and limited resources to qualify or disqualify these new applicants.  Lets looks at the facts..

Screening Your Mobile Home Tenants

BiggerPockets Tenant ScreeningVerify Employment: Call the present and previous employers to see if the applicant still holds current employment, how secure his/her job is for future work, and if applicant has been reprimanded or suspended for any reason?  If there is no response to your call, keep calling until you get through to a past employer.  Employment shows the ability to pay your monthly rent or mortgage payment.  A length of two or more years is nice to show stability.

Exception to Employment Length: Monthly income is necessary to insure your monthly bill is paid; however looking solely at the length of employment may not always be pertinent.  Many hardworking employees have been downsized over the past 5 years due to no fault of their own, simply a negative economy.

Criminal history: DUIs, Armed Assaults, Robbery, Domestic Abuse, Misdemeanors vs. Felonies, Jaywalking, Parking violations, Etc. Whether renting mansions or mobile homes I am not comfortable with violent criminals or sexual offenders in my property. Make your own decision for this topic and stick to it!

Eviction History: You should not be surprised by a tenant leaving unexpectantly or not paying you on time if that tenant has had a track record of prior evictions. Typically recent past experiences will shed some light on how your newest tenant will behave towards you and the amount of respect they will show you and your property.  If your tenant-applicant was evicted from his/her last place of residence or within the last 10 years than it should be no surprise when they stiff you for rent down the road.

Exception to Eviction History: The past is past.  If a past eviction is over ten years old I will generally look the other way with no since rental blemishes.  If a 30 something tenant-applicant just admits (before I run the background check) that in his late teenage years he was not as responsible as he could have been and got evicted I will generally overlook this blemish.

Sexual Predator: Check the nationwide database at http://www.nsopw.gov.   This should have been disclosed by the applicant at the time of submitting the application.  This may be a deal breaker for many of us!

Down Payment Ability: Let us be honest, price cures most past blemishes. If a tenant/tenant-buyer can put down a large down payment or deposit most of us have the tendency of looking some past credit or criminal hiccups.  Ultimately if you are on the fence about letting your tenant-applicant live in your home simply increase the down payment or security deposit amount until you are happy to let the tenant rent your property

Honesty: I tell every applicant of mine, “We grade on honesty in addition to what we will find on your credit and background checks. Is there anything else we will find when we pull your background report?”  If an applicant has had a criminal mishap in the past and admits/explains the situation to me prior to me finding it on his/her background it helps show honesty and I’ll allow the small infraction.  If the applicant lies or forgets about his/her 2 felony convictions than I will have no alternative but to think he/she is lying and therefore they will be denied. Never rent to liars!

Credit: Credit is important; don’t let anyone tell you it is not.  Credit is the barometer that landlords can use for a quick evaluation to see if the subject applicants may be a potential risk for rent or rent-to own.

Exception to Credit: Millions of Americans lost their homes and jobs during the housing crash in the late 2000’s.  Many of these individuals had to foreclose or claim bankruptcy in order to save what little their families had left.  It is for this reason ‘Credit’ should be looked at as guideline, not a rule.

In the beginning of my real estate career I was told to write down everything I looked for when screening my rental/rent-to-own tenant applicants.  Write down what criteria I would accept and would not accept in a potential tenant/tenant-buyer.  i urge you to do the same and write this list down, keep it in a safe spot (say the back of your filing cabinet).  If anyone claims you choose another applicant over them simply refer to your qualifications guidelines sheet.

Happy, Safe and Profitable Investing,
- John

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{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

Big Pat September 15, 2010 at 12:00 pm

Although I do not own mobile homes, I’m sure this screening advice may still come in handy. I’ve went as far as to visit the person’s current residence. If they decided they like the home and ask for an application, I’ll give them one and tell them that I’ll come to their home to pick it up and validate the information. Usually they will invite me in because I ask to see their driver’s license and other info. Although I am obtaining relevant information, my main reason for visiting is to view the property (inside and out) and scan for any other unwanted situations that I want to avoid. This may seem like a hassle, but for the small amount of time it takes, it may save you thousands.

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John Fedro June 8, 2011 at 11:43 am

Great advice Pat! This is an excellent trick that everyone should try at least for 1 property to see the benefits! When I use to rent homes I would wait until the application came back with approved criteria; the last thing i would look for would then be to see how the applicants are keeping care of their current home and even their car condition. Now that I’ve stopped renting homes and only sell them (via payments) I have significantly slowed down looking at applicants cars and home living conditions. If they have my move-in money and pass my background/employment checks then I good! Are you screening your applicants for renting or buying?

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fred June 7, 2011 at 4:38 pm

I lost my home to foreclosure last year, I’m self employed for 22 years in the construction business and when the economy and housing tanked so did my business. I could no longer afford my $1200 mortgage, $350 heat, $2,500 taxes and all the other monthly utilities. I found two affordable mobile homes in different parks, paying cash, neither park would approve me as a tenant because of my credit, i.e. foreclosure. Now, I couldn’t afford $2000 in bills a month when the economy went south, but I can surely afford $325 lot rent for a mobile home in my area plus utilities. I mean, lets face it, many people who purchase mobile homes aren’t exactly loaded, I can’t believe I can’t get approved.

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John Fedro June 8, 2011 at 11:58 am

Fred, First off, thank you for being so candid with your situation. Many of my tenant-buyers now (2009-2011) are coming from SFR ownership who have been foreclosed upon. And wouldn’t you know they are my most responsible and on-time buyers.

Unfortunately this is not the first time I’ve heard of this happening. However there is a silver lining of sorts here. Each park is owned by a single person, mom & pop, or corporation that determines who lives in their park. Some parks look only for a pulse and you’re approved, while others want to see a credit beacon score of 700 plus (no joke).

Here are two suggestions to help you find a new home. 1. Why not begin looking for manufactured homes attached to land that you can pick up subject to the mortgage or with owner financing that you can afford. 2. Try looking into parks with a lower application standard.

John

P.s. If you need help finding a deal and crafting your purchase offers let me know and I will give you some pointers.

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