Newbie - First Ever Tenant Screening

12 Replies

I found my first tenant and everything seemed fine. I went over the requirements with her. Gross income three times rent, Credit score greater than 600, etc... All is good she says.

During the showing she mentioned her domestic partner owns a house in another state and so she (gay couple) doesn’t have rental history. She is “wrapping things up over there” and wont be here to see the rental. Not a big deal to me. What seems odd is the applicant has a couple children too. But hay it is 2021 and I live in a progressive city. So I suppose it’s possible she is a lesbian with children from a previous heterosexual relationship.

Now she turns in the application and I see her income is just below $40,000/yr, so she doesn’t meet the income requirements for the house by herself. She needs to gross $67,000/yr to be at 3 times rent. Also, she states some credit issues with at least one of her scores falling below 600. She lists her relationship status as “domestic partnerships” and the other applicant as her partner. So I’m supposed to consider them a couple with combined income? They aren’t married.

Now I look at the out of state applicants information. She also makes about $40,000/yr, but I notice she has lived in the other state for over ten years. That’s one heck of a long distance relationship. Also zero rental history and she mentions bad credit too. Under her relationship status she says “Single” but what throws me off is she lists the primary applicant as her Partner and the kids as her children.

I’m kinda torn here, because if they are indeed a lesbian couple they meet the combine household income requirements. But they live in different states and both of them have stated credit issues.

My wife They aren’t a couple. If they were married they would be a couple, but since they aren’t married we shouldn’t consider them a household and they both need to qualify individually. The wife also says they don’t make enough money and really we are almost doing them a favor by rejecting them. And she says I’m not allowed to screen tenants moving forward. :-/ Ugh...

I would be Very cautious how you handle this because you could be violating a fair housing violation as well as a discrimination class.

very cautious how you handle this because you could be violating a fair housing violation as well as a discrimination class.

I would make sure I have my qualifications written down and I would not deviate from them ever. If you have qualifications and they do not meet them you’re very simply cannot accept them because you can be considered discriminating against other people or if you do not except them and you except someone else they can see you for discrimination.

Have your qualifications written down and if they do not meet them then they are not accepted 

Continue showing the property. Do not discriminate against any applicant, and don't be desperate to fill a vacancy either. You know the applicant is dishonest. She portrayed her situation one way and in reality it was another. Find a tenant that meets your criteria, and simply send a note to any outstanding applicants that the vacancy has been filled. You don't need to provide further details.

I would treat them like a couple for screening purposes if they say they are a couple.  Domestic partners, married, whatever, they are two adults renting a property together so treat them as a family unit.  As stated by others previously, never treat anyone differently based on their orientation or relationship status.  If you would rent to a newly married couple, a boyfriend/girlfriend that just got together, or a couple of adult friends/siblings/etc. you should rent to two adults that want to live together for any reason.

However, I would not rent to these particular applicants because they don't seem to have any rental history.  I have found that people often report no history when they have prior evictions, so if applicants can't show two years of good rental history with references, or residential property ownership we don't rent to them.  We will allow cosigners in the case of people who are just starting out in life (i.e. moving out of parent's house), but we won't rent to anyone with a prior eviction and we strictly adhere to all other screening criteria even when there is a cosigner.

Do your due diligence, be patient, and get a good tenant.  There are plenty of them out there, and nothing else will serve you half as well in the long run.

@Brian Tome That is really my question. When I have two adult applicants do I automatically treat them as a family unit with a combined household income? Or do they each have to qualify individually?

I really like them and my gut tells me they will be good tenants, so I want to rent to them, but when I got the applications and looked at them on paper my brain tells me no.

Firstly, her credit score falls below my posted minimum score. Also she is currently living with family and her previous landlord left he country. So I can’t speak with her old landlord.

The second applicant listed a bankruptcy and credit problems.

I think my best course of action is to pass along the application to my Realtor so he can review everything and make a professional decision. Moving forward I may want to use a realtor for the entire process.

@Mike B. - "Prior landlord moved out of the country?!?!"  LOL!  Yeah, hard pass!  What are we living in 1920?  Everybody in the world has access to What's App, Viber, WeChat, Kik, Line, or something that is as simple as installing an app and messaging/calling them direct.  I communicated with a client in Bamako, Mali for many months using What's App before ultimately traveling there to defend his video deposition in a personal injury case.  Look up Bamako.  It is the armpit of Africa (complete with terrorists) and every person there had a cell phone and could answer your Viber call 3 seconds after you dialed the number from the states.

You can also verify property addresses and ownership records to find the landlord's name and phone number in public records.  This lady is trying to "game" you because she has something to hide in her rental history.  Probably stopped paying rent when eviction actions were suspended for COVID and needs someplace to move now that the moratorium is lifting.  OK, that is an unsupported assumption on my part, but her story gets fishier every time you provide more details.  

And who cares whether you like them?  You aren't going to live with them are you?  Never trust your gut!!!  Always trust the process and the tenant's rental/credit/criminal history!  I will give a tenant a break on credit if it is close or they have been good for a while.  I will look at criminal history a little less critically when it is an older conviction.  But bad rental history, late rent payments, evictions, etc. are a deal killer, and these applicants are clearly trying to hide something from you.

Guarantee if you rent to this couple you will regret it!

@Mike B. - You are getting the "trial by fire" training!  We all go through it each time we do something new.  Good on you for having the courage to take the chance on rental investing, and even more so for having the courage to ask for advice.  You and your wife are going to make a great team, and once you have good tenants in place, you will start seeing the rewards that come from all your hard work.  Before you know it you will have a dozen more and it will get simpler each time.

Best wishes!

@Brian Tome So to recap:

She had been living with family for the last three years, the previous landlord moved outside the country, now I find out she had $250,000 in unsecured debt with a below 600 credit score, he co-applicant just filed bankruptcy and they are in a relationship but both live in different states.

She came back and offered to provide a co-signer and I said no.

And I was ready to rent to them. Now I think they targeted me as an independent landlord.

I am going to refund their application fee. Since we didn’t even need to run a credit check or anything. 😌

It's not discrimination if you're rejecting the client because of dishonesty.  Something seems a little off between the low credit scores and the lack of a rental history.