Desperate Tenant - Prospect

12 Replies

So, we have our very first property ready to rent (after a 3 month rehab where we did most of the work) and just before the holidays, a passerby stopped by and stated that she would love to rent our house. My husband took her information and I gave her a call a day or so later. She sounded like a good prospect but said she wanted to make me aware of a "discrepancy" in her credit report related to a water bill with a previous landlord.  Following the holidays she called again to see if we were ready to show the property at which time we scheduled a date for next week. She then went on to say she is sure it's the best place for her and that she hopes to get the place. I guess because of what sounded like desperation to me, I decided to look online at our local court eviction website, and guess what? She's in the system for a tenant complaint.  One case was from 2006 but she has another case where the last document filed was is March of 2014. Because all of this is new, I'm really not following all of the documents filed by the court,but the latest writ as of March 2014 says that she hasn't vacated or paid any rent.  Needless to say, I'm thinking this application will be a waste of time and that's where I need opinions...... Do I proceed with our date for the showing, let her complete the application, and then let her know that she doesn't qualify?  Do I tell her that I pre-screened her so that she doesn't waste her money on an application fee or I waste time running a creidt report? My husband thinks telling her that we pre-screened her isn't fair as we do have to confirm she is in fact the same person that I searched.  Not sure of what to do, but I really don't want to have her spend money unnecessarily (she is low income), nor do I want to waste time running a credit check. We're planning to do an open house so it's not so much of a waste to let her do the walk through.  Was it creepy for me to look her up in advance? I also couldn't resist searching FB (nothing material found there). Am I suppose to just wait until I have a completed application? Help Please!!!

Others may feel differently but the most conservative thing to do in my view is do the showing. She may or may not apply. Stress that you need a clear credit report and positive landlord references. That may be enough. If you get an application you are not compelled to do a credit check, you checked evictions history and that is a disqualifier.

I would go through all your criteria orally with the tenant! I also would schedule all showing over your open house time. This will make your time easy!

We prescreen the tenants and reject on the initial verbal screening if it makes sense.  Our primary rejection points are that they are required to prove that they earn at least 3x the rent, have a credit score of at least 600, no evictions on record, and no outstanding debt to previous landlords.  You should take some time to prepare a set of rental criteria that your tenants must meet. 

Congratulations on your first property!

It is perfectly normal to have 'per-qualification' criteria that a prospect must meet in order to even view a home.

You can ask about criminal history and deny a showing based on your criteria. 

Some pre-qual questions could be about the number of occupants, time-frame to move-in, criminal history, basic income requirements, etc.

Just make sure that you ask every prospect the same questions and are consistent in applying your criteria. 

HUD has fair housing testers who pose very tricky questions looking for potential discrimination.

Be cautious and be wise!

Congratulations! The fun is just beginning :)

On my application, I have several yes/no questions about evictions, eviction filings, judgements, owing utility companies money, etc. The app states that false or incomplete information will result in rejection. So give her an app, verbally tell her and show her that section, and let her know you will be doing a background/criminal/credit check. 

You could also tell her right up front that you don't accept applicants with evictions or filings, and see if she volunteers anything or just disappears. 

Keep in mind that in NJ, water/sewer is leinable. If your tenant didn't pay their previous bill, that means their landlord got stuck with it. You will too.

But you did absolutely the right thing in starting pre-screening. I do it, as well as check Facebook, LinkedIn, etc.

You've gotten some great advice here.  If you make your criteria clear, ti's up to her whether she wants to pay the application fee.  We have many may people who are really interested and we never see an application turned in.  To make the most of your time, schedule other showings at the same time, or advertise the time block as an open house.  

Our very first tenant found us by "just walking by" too.  We thought we were so blessed that someone really liked it.  They passed our screening and moved in, and were a huge nightmare.  We have learned so much since then!  And have stories about those first tenants, including trying to burn the place down, writing a notice to comply letter to stop vomiting out the front door, and mediating domestic disputes.  Good times!

Originally posted by @Michele Fischer :
.....writing a notice to comply letter to stop vomiting out the front door, and mediating domestic disputes.  Good times!

 Now that's something I've never heard, and never read anywhere!! I'll give you 2 votes for that one, Michele!

Thanks so much for all of the advice! All of it is excellent!!  I will put together clear acceptance criteria and will update my application to include a note that Evictions and outstanding debts to landlords will result in rejection. I will also make sure that I review the application with all prospects so that there are no surprises. 

Hi Angela, 

this prospect is a human being after all, I wouldn't feel that good having her entertain a hope and spending her time visiting your apartment.. I would text her and say sorry, you have eviction history which is so and so.. 

@Angela Henderson  Lots of good advice here. We only show our places to people who appear they will qualify based on our screening process. 

If during a pre-screening you find something undesirable from public records, but don't know if it is the same person, ask them about it.  I usually use a phrase such as "What can you tell me about _______________ from 2014?" This will usually give you the information you need.  And then you can say, "Based on the information you've shared with me and the information I see in the public record, you don't appear to meet our minimum criteria to rent. I wish you well in finding a place that meets your needs." 

If you want to see sample Rental Criteria and sample Tenant Screening Questions to help you develop your own, take a look at the BP Resources Tab - FilePlace - Other Documents and look for the two documents I share there. Good luck!

I had a similar experience couple of months ago. I got 2 separate potential tenants who wanted to move in right away. They were all excited about the apartment 2 minutes after seeing it for the first time. I went to the housing courts website and looked them up and found that they were undergoing an eviction.   I also have several Yes/No questions on my application form as Aly NA mentioned above, and they just selected No to everything. When I asked them about the housing court documents, they acted surprised as they had no idea about what was going on.  I also found out that they gave wrong names and phone number of the previous landlords - a quick validation about the previous landlord that I now use is that I ask the previous landlord some random but simple questions about their property (like the cross street, stores close to their address etc.). This quickly validates if the listed old landlord actually lives at the address mentioned in the application form. 

To sum up, my suggestion would be not to waste your time and stay away from such potential tenants. 

I always start with: do they pay their bills, because, that is what you really care about, do they pay rent. This sounds like a situation a bit outside that.

Anyone can come by and say they "want" it. Let them come to you. They want it? Okay, here is my phone number, call me. Then see if they do. That will save you a lot of stress about people who aren't even worth your time as they aren't serious.

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