If You Want to Protect Your Income, You Need to Screen Your Renters

July 02, 2020 | By Charleston Property Company

If you find yourself with an empty rental property in the middle of a crisis, we understand how tempting it is to get a tenant in as fast as possible. As your expert provider of property management, Charleston, SC landlords, we understand the need to maintain low vacancy rates. However, our perspective as professionals also gives us reason to press pause with every application we evaluate.

Consider this scenario: you listed your property, and you got an inquiry that came with a promise of a fast-cash security deposit and the first month's rent. Why not just say yes?

The truth is that tenant screening isn't optional—even in a crisis. If anything, it becomes more vital during a crisis, since there is more potential to be pulled into a scam by an unscrupulous applicant. However, using the resources at your disposal, you can make sure that you don't get duped while finding a great, reliable tenant.

A quick note: While this blog post is designed to give you some tips to safeguard your rental property, it is not intended as legal advice! When in doubt, work through such situations with trusted property management, Charleston, SC landlords! 

Businessman working outdoors reading documents drinking coffeeToo Good to Be True? It Probably Really Is!

If a tenant seems to have everything "figured out" while also pushing to move in very quickly, it's worth slowing down the process and taking a few days (at least) to run some background checks. Your candidate's reaction to needing a background check can prove very telling about whether they are precisely what they seem. If they push for quick acceptance and try to use cash to dissuade you from taking your time, that is a major red flag!

It's vital to recognize that tenants who do this may have legitimate issues that mean they need to move quickly. Still, they also may have been through this situation before, and find it to be a successful strategy for getting into a property and then refusing to pay rent until they are evicted. The best way to know is to screen your tenants carefully.

Work With a Property Manager Who Knows the Signs

Property managers screen tenants as a matter of procedure regarding the services they offer to property owners. When you are trying to fill a lot of properties, they know that you want to make sure you don't get a reputation for being an easy mark for "Professional Tenants." Professional Tenants know the legal requirements related to eviction, and game the system to pay the least rent possible. 

  • Property managers know to check credit and background to see if the tenants have a clean record of paying their rent.
  • They also know that past landlords or property managers who are willing to serve as references can tell a lot about a tenant who seems to have all their ducks in a row.
  • You can save yourself a lot of time and get better tenant applications if you work with a property manager. 

Female tax inspector looking at document with magnifying glassSigns to Look for When Handling Your Tenant Screening

If you opt to do your screening instead of working with property management, Charleston, SC landlords, here are some major things to consider in your background searches. 

  • Require ID, including things like social security number and a copy of the driver's license. Someone who has no past rent-related infractions won't balk too much at an identification requirement. Others may try to say they've lost these forms of ID to avoid sharing them with you. 
  • Look at credit inquiries and score, as well as any broken leases. You can legally request a credit report, and it may show some things that are worth talking through. From late or missing payments to broken leases, as well as a low credit score overall, there are many factors that might make a tenant less reliable with their payments. If you have a tenant applicant with clearer credit, you may have a better experience.
  • The broader state of a person's finances is, unfortunately, still your prerogative to check. If someone is deeply in debt, behind on payments to someone else, or out of a job when they say they have one, these factors can all affect their ability to reliably pay rent.

The goal with your tenant screening is never to discriminate against tenants; there may be times where one small blemish on a record doesn't have an impact on your final decision.

However, if you do these screenings and discover major issues with the ability to pay bills consistently, you owe it to yourself to avoid the headache of working with that tenant. You have the opportunity to keep looking for tenants—and even in tough times, that week or two waiting for the right tenant is well worth the expense and headaches of an eviction down the road.

As your property manager, Charleston Property Company is equipped to do a thorough background check that is legal and avoids discrimination—all while catching legitimate red flags. 

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