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Mobile Home Tenant Screening Guide

John Fedro
4 min read

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

Note By BiggerPockets: These are opinions written by the author and do not necessarily represent the opinions of BiggerPockets.