I have just told a prospective applicant that a prior eviction is "probably a deal breaker." She politely said thank you and hung up, but I'm feeling very waffly on this rule. I know it's standard screening to protect myself, but I also know a lot of good people have had hard times and are trying to come back from them.
I had to evict a tenant about 10 years ago and it was a huge hassle. I had screened her as best I could, but found out later (from docs left in the filing cabinet left in the house) that she had an eviction history that she hid (it wasn't on her credit report). On the other side, the most recent tenants in the same house were upfront about a student-loan default, but I accepted them anyway and they were awesome for 3.5 years.
Have you ever had a prospect be upfront with an eviction history, accepted an application anyway and if everything else checked out clean, offer that person a lease? Is honesty on the applicant's part worth considering as a plus?
@Anna Watkins They still have to live somewhere, right? I almost did worse. I almost took back a tenant I had evicted.
And yes, I would take a tenant with a prior eviction. But I'd be looking for some combination of a good explanation. Why things will be different now. A solid income. And maybe first, last and security (instead of typical first and security).
You see, in my experience most tenants want to pay the rent. They really do. They may be terrible money managers and not make rent a priority or they may hit hard times. But they want to pay. That knowledge helps us remember that they are real people--good people.
I'm not their family. I can't be there to catch everybody when they fall. I am not social services. I will evict. And I have to run this like a business. But I won't just write them off because of an eviction without due consideration.
One of my main criteria for applicants is no prior evictions. I do not accept anyone with a prior eviction history. Period.
I've had numerous calls from prospective applicants who wanted to give me a sad story about how them being evicted wasn't their fault, but how I am I to know whether they're telling the truth or not? And I certainly don't want to waste my time investigating their claims that it was all their prior landlord's fault. Plus, once they've been through the eviction process once, they already know too much about how the process works - and more importantly the delay tactics that they can use to continue living in your property for free.
My advice - thank them for their honesty and for telling you about the eviction up front, and then explain that it is your policy not to accept prior evictions and it wouldn't be fair to other applicants for you to accept some but not others - and then move on.
You'll likely get a different answer from each person that responds.
My advice... stick to YOUR standards, and go from there.
To that end, if people are lining up to apply, then sure, automatically disqualify those with evictions. But if not, I'd look at the total strength of the application in question, along with any compensating factors, before automatically disqualifying a prospective tenant.
An eviction is different than an eviction filing, which can be dropped if the tenant pays or voluntarily leaves. An actual eviction means they fought it until the end...and as
@Kyle J. said, they'll always blame the landlord. The most common reason I've heard is that their landlord didn't make repairs so they stopped paying rent.
As Kyle also said, once they've been through it, they know how it works, how much time they have, and no fear about going through it again.
I accepted a tenant that had an eviction filing, and her landlord's version basically matched hers. She's been renting from us for almost 3 years now.
I had two previous tenants that had at least 1 eviction on their record (one I knew about and one I didn't, because years ago I didn't do a background check). The one I knew about explained it well enough and paid an extra month's rent up front. Both were evicted eventually, and probably have been again, since then.
Agree with Kyle J.
I personally believe that if anyone has a history of doing something, then their chances of doing it again rise dramatically when compared to someone who doesn't have a history doing that same something.
If a prospective tenant is honest about a previous eviction, then it is commendable. However, as a landlord, you want to do everything you can to ensure you receive rent each month. If you have to evict a tenant, then you are in a terrible situation. It means they are not paying you but are still living in your property. This costs you money.
In summary - just have a policy to not accept tenants with a prior eviction history. I believe in second chances and that people can change, but in this case playing it safe is best.
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