How to Screen a Prospective Tenant The Legal Way

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One of the not so pleasant parts of being a landlord is saying no to a prospective tenant, however the alternative is choosing the wrong tenant and that far outweighs the costs of a vacancy. A landlord sometimes has to be tough and the tenant screening process can be stressful but it’s necessary.

Below are the steps you will want to go through to help you make an informed decision.

Let prospective applicants know if you have certain credit score requirements, any pet policies, or if your property is non-smoking. It is a good idea to also charge an application fee to cover the tenant screenings as this will weed out anyone that’s ‘just looking’ and doesn’t have a real interest in the property.

Credit Reports
If you’re denying them based on something found in their credit report, you will need to provide them with a formal letter that will show which credit reporting agency you used and how to contact said agency.

Tenant Screening Questions
Discrimination occurs when a landlord basis their decision to rent to someone because of the impression they form about the person’s class. This includes race, color, religion, national origin, marital or familial status, gender, advanced age or disability.
Do not reject a tenant because they are a member of a protected class.  However if there is a legitimate reason to reject them, such as a poor credit report or a dubious reference from the previous landlord relating specifically to the payment of rent or behavior of that particular individual, a landlord does have the right to reject them.

Criminal Background Checks
Reject prospective tenants with a criminal history that could indicate bad behavior as a tenant.  Look for fraud, disorderly conduct, and any violent or aggressive behavior that could place other tenants or neighbors at risk. Remember that wherever you decide to draw the line, apply it evenly to all applicants.

Eviction Reports
Tenants with a history of eviction can be rejected.  Remember that once an eviction proceeding is filed, the tenant may be more likely to damage the rental property so screen prospective tenants thoroughly.

Rental Application
Landlords can reject an applicant who did not complete the entire rental application.
Make certain that the applicant has signed the authorization for a tenant background check, including a credit report, and permission to contact the references listed.

Keep documentation of your contacts with the applicant to prove you did not violate the law when you rejected the applicant. Also remember to check with your city and/or state to see what you need to provide to a denied applicant.

Most importantly, apply whatever criteria you use to reject or accept a prospective tenant evenly and objectively to all tenants.

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We are Frisco, TX home specialists. If you have any questions about real estate in Frisco, or any neighboring DFW communities, please fill out our contact form, or call 469-556-2393 for assistance.

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Nick Walton
JP And Associates REALTORS