Can I run a tenant by you?

2 Replies


I appreciate all the advice I've gotten here so far - what a helpful group!!

This is our first rental.  We've had a ton of interest but only actually received 2 applications (we listed it last week).  I've decided to do them in the order received and process until they no longer qualify before moving onto the next and making them pay the credit/background check fee.  

The first is a single mom and her one son. She is moving to the area from about an hour away. Her current job of 10 years verified employment and salary. She has a small dog and a cat (we are allowing up to 2 pets with fee). It is a SFH with yard. She just got a new job about 1 hour from here (normal commute for this town) but I think she might be underestimating the traffic on I95 (its really only 20 miles). It does seem that her job currently has her commuting all over the area, but not in the same traffic as here. I'm still waiting to hear back from the new job - she doesn't start til October. She has family in town. Her husband died this year (googling obit - donations in lieu of flowers for a young guy). No social media (but she does work with kids in a school system so maybe privacy settings).

She had a chapter 7 bankruptcy 4 years ago (that she readily informed of on application) and I'm deducing that it was due to medical from her husband.  She has owned her current home for 9 years.  Background check is clean.  Credit check seems to show that it was CCs that she let slide but mortgage was always on time.  Salary is 79K for $1800 per month apt.  2 month security and month to month lease, although she is looking for longterm (which we would prefer, but keeping M2M).  Credit score is mid 7s, most debt is current mortgage, student loans and car payment.  Very little CC.  

I will be asking her what she plans to do with her current house, as it isn't for sale at the moment.  I am also waiting to hear from the new employer before doing anything.  Anything else I should be asking or doing?

Any input on this tenant?  Did I miss doing anything?  She meets income, credit score, etc. but the bankruptcy scares me a little.  

Thanks in advance!!

In order to avoid any Fair Housing issues, this really should come down to what do your published screening requirements state about a bankruptcy (in addition to credit, income, criminal record, etc)?

Your requirements should address this in advance, and every applicant should get the same answer

In my case, we do no deny tenants based on bankruptcy (only evictions), and this tenant would probably get a thumbs up, pending employment verification etc). 

If anything, you may be overthinking this a little. It really needs to come down to "just the facts", based on your published screening requirements. She either qualifies or she doesn't, you offer her housing if she does, and move on to the next applicant is she declines or is not qualified.

Commute times and other ancillary details like that are not really your concern (though commuters are not a protected class, so I suppose you could legally make commute time a screening requirement if you were so inclined). 

Finally, be very cautious about suggesting her "familial status" (i.e. "single mom and her one son"...widow, etc) are even remotely part of your thought processes when screening tenants. Familial status is a protected class and this could get you into hot water. 

Thanks Jeff,

Neither familial status, nor commute time is even remotely part of my screening - I was merely trying to paint the full picture about possible reason for bankruptcy (death of husband) and probably was overthinking all details.  Not sure if I'm allowed to ask about bankruptcy but googled the hell out of her to try to get a full picture of who we will be renting to.  Mostly worried about the bankruptcy, but if husband had cancer or something, can see how it could happen.  I didn't list bankruptcy as a screening requirement either way - a very recent one seems different than 4 years ago, but I don't know much about the bankruptcy process - not sure how you would include every single dynamic into that ahead of time.  

Still waiting to hear back from new job but was trying to get some insight into renting to someone with bankruptcy and to someone who already owns their home but is moving.  It can take a while to sell (or rent) and carrying a mortgage and rent can be a bit much.  While we are leaning towards a thumbs up - it's those 2 details that make us hesitate (and waiting on new employer response).