Tenant screening requires more than a basic credit check. When you’re handing over the keys to your Cleveland investment property, you want to have a good idea of who will be living there. Robust screening is critical and it can protect you from unpleasant outcomes such as eviction and paying for property damage.
Here are some of the ways we screen tenants as professional Cleveland property managers.
Establish Consistent Rental Criteria
Before you can begin screen applications or approving tenants, you need to establish your standards for a well-qualified tenant.
Put them in writing. These standards must be used to screen every applicant and they should be provided to all prospective tenants before they apply. Good criteria will include what you’re looking for in terms of credit, income, and background. This is how you protect yourself from fair housing issues. When you can show your documented procedure for screening tenants, you can be sure you aren’t choosing or disqualifying someone based on personal prejudices or discrimination.
Screen Cleveland Tenants for Financial Stability
You need a tenant who can afford to pay your rent on time every month. This is perhaps the most important part of the screening process.
According to most property management best practices, you should require that a tenant earn at least three times the monthly rent. So, if your rent is $1,500 per month, you’ll want to see proof of income that meets or exceeds $4,500 per month. Ask for verification in the form of pay stubs, employment contracts, bank statements, or tax forms.
It’s also important to review credit. Make sure there are no prior evictions, and be wary of renting to anyone who has outstanding debts owed to previous landlords or management companies. If you see a $5,000 debt owed to the last apartment building where a tenant lived, you probably don’t want to offer that individual the keys to your own property.
Checking Landlord References
Understanding a tenant’s rental history will give you a good idea of how that tenant will perform in the future. Talk to current and former landlords. This may seem time-consuming, and a lot of landlords hesitate to do it, but you may find the information you receive is worth your phone calls.
Ask if the tenant paid rent on time, and if there was any property damage left behind. Find out if proper notice was given before the tenant moved out, and ask if there were any pets. If the tenant is telling you they don’t have any pets but the current landlord tells you they had three dogs, you’ll want to address that inconsistency.
Tenant Criminal Background Checks
A background check is also important, and you’ll want to decide what type of criminal past you’ll find acceptable. We recommend that you look especially closely at violent crimes and property-related offenses. For example, arson convictions or home invasions might be a good reason to deny an application. Any recent violent convictions for assault or domestic violence might also disqualify an applicant.
You can set the standards, but remember that they have to be consistent and apply to everyone. They also need to comply with federal, state, and local fair housing laws.
Screening might be more complex now than it was in the past. It’s a good idea to leverage the resources and experience of Cleveland property managers when you’re choosing a tenant. We can help. To hear about our extensive Cleveland property management services, please contact our team at IIP Management. We work with owners in Cleveland Heights, Lakewood, Lyndhurst, Parma, Solon, and South Euclid (Cuyahoga County).