Finally to the plunge!

11 Replies

I just closed escrow on my first two SFR that I am turning into rentals. After 4-5 years of analysis paralysis, I finally took the advice I read and heard on BP and the BP podcasts. You learn more by doing. So now I am doing. I have joined the AOA (Apartment Owners Association of California) to gain additional support. Now that I have all these people calling, what advice do you have when it comes to screening tenants prior to the application? My first instinct is that if I can't hold a conversation because their speech is so bad (non-language barrier) I should automatically disqualify them based on a phone conversation. The second thing is to make sure they meet my income requirement, credit checks etc. Any advice with tenant screening would be appreciated.

@Jeremy Seib Congratulations! Way to jump in!

Personally, I do not phone screen before the showing. I find that about 1/2 the people who inquire about a property actually show up. I basically provide every detail I can imagine in the ad (deposits, income req, ect) and let them know I am doing showings on X day between X - X and to come during that time if interested. Once they show I direct them to my online application ( www.rentapplication.net ) and say it is free to apply, and applications are due the next day by noon. Usually I have a few to choose from, I base my choice on their income and how they were at the showing. Once I decided on my renter I have them to a credit / background check with MySmartMove.com

Brianna Schmidt
Why do you use SmartMove rather than rentapplication.net for the background and eviction checks?

My rental is a bit of a drive for me about an hour and a half, so I do screen on the phone.

These are my requirements . Employment is number one. I have a family that lost there house a couple years back, but the father managed to keep his job though the whole mess. He has held the same job for over 10 years ( really good tenants ) .

After I talked with them on the phone and liked what I heard, I asked them for there address of there current residence and go visit them with out them with out them knowing I'm coming. This may sound kind of rude, but I want to make sure there property that there currently living in isn't trashed. If it is the deal is off. I have been to more properties than I can count that have been a horrible mess.

Then I still run a credit check and eviction search. If all is good with there income 3x to 4x there rent then there in.

This may sound like a lot of work but trust me an eviction in CA is a nightmare.

This post has been removed.

Brianna Schmidt
Why do you use SmartMove rather than rentapplication.net for the background and eviction checks?
Also, I've read many posts that suggest asking open ended questions, for instance, "How many evictions have you had?" rather than closed ended "Have you ever been evicted?" How do you get around the latter question on the rentapp?
(Not sure why posting from my phone makes several posts)

@Arthur Banks I tried to use rentapllication.net for checks but I had to go through this entire verification process and send in all this documentation on my business just to do tenant screening. I didn't have the time or energy to do it. But I like their online application and customization. From what I hear the landlord verification process will be easier in the future but I just stayed with MySmartMove for this round

@Brianna Schmidt Can you customize the questions? I really don't want to use closed ended questions. (Do you have pets? Do you smoke?)

@Chris Gawlik I am in the same boat. My properties are about an hour and half from me, I work full time and support a family of five on one income. Screening over the phone then setting a day for showing as @Brianna Schmidt suggests could be a good combonation. Adding the surprise visit analysis seems to be a good option to add based on their location and my time limitations.

@Jeremy Seib

All information is valuable when it comes to screening tenants! I make notes along the way, starting with our first phone call, to our in person showing (did they show up on time?), how promptly did they submit their application, was their application completed thoroughly (or were important sections left blank?). I've also started looking at applicant's public social media profile(s) including facebook, twitter, instagram etc.

HOWEVER, I would strongly caution you against denying them solely based on a phone conversation. Denying someone simply because you didn't like how they sound on the phone could get you in a lot of trouble. It is important to have all prospective tenants complete the same process (submit application and application fee, provide proof of income, consent to thorough credit/criminal screening, etc) If you have a gut doubt about an applicant, chances are their application/screening will highlight something concrete that you can deny their tenancy (bad credit, insufficient income, criminal record, etc.) The important part is to approve or deny all applicants based on the same process and criteria.

@Ryan S. The last thing I want is the Fair Housing Authority breathing down my neck. I will just keep it fair and consistent across the board and let the facts or lack thereof speak for themselves. I found a check list/point system here on BP that I can use as a platform for screening. I will have to incorporate that into my screening process so I have proof. I also have an application denial form with the reason for denial that I could incorporate. Its based on facts from the screening process. Great idea on the social media check. Thank you.

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