Know Your Tenant: Tips on How to Run a Credit Check and Properly Screen Renters

how to run a credit check

The key to having success as a landlord (aside from investing in the right properties) is renting to the right tenants. 

Rental profit margins are thin to begin with. If you rent to the wrong person and end up chasing down rent, going through an eviction, or repairing excessive property damage, that profit can get eaten up very quickly. 

Before you hand the keys over, take the necessary steps to vet your prospective tenants. Aside from verifying all the information on the rental application, you should also consider running a credit check. 

If this is a new process for you, you might wonder how to run a credit check on a tenant. Here’s a quick how-to primer. 

1. Know Your Tenant’s Rights

First things first – make sure you fully understand the rights of your tenant before you run a tenant credit check. 

A person’s credit history contains a wealth of personal and sensitive information. For that reason, you will need to get the applicant’s permission in writing prior to running the check. 

You can either include a clause on the rental application or have a separate addendum for the applicant to sign.

This is also the time to let them know if you charge a fee. Many landlords charge an “application fee” that will cover the cost of the credit check. If the applicant passes, you can always apply the amount in the form of a credit towards the first month’s rent. 

2. Get the Requisite Information

Once you have your applicant’s written permission, you’ll need to ensure you have all the information you need to get the check done. 

You’ll need a full name, driver’s license number, date of birth, current address, and current employer’s information. Most, if not all of this, will be on your rental application. 

If you plan to verify employment and reach out to the applicants current or former landlords, do that prior to running a credit check. You might get info from a former landlord that will automatically rule someone out, and you can then avoid the credit check step altogether. 

3. Get the Check and Analyze

Now it’s time to get the credit check performed. Using the agency of your choosing (like Experian), provide the necessary info.

If it’s your first time running a check, you will need to take steps to verify that you are indeed a landlord. This is an important step and necessary for fraud prevention. 

Once you have an account with the credit agency, check results will come back to you quickly. Once you have the results in hand, you can analyze the applicant. 

Look for red flags like bankruptcies, a history of late rent payments, or a large debt-to-income ratio. Some credit reporting services will also provide information on any previous evictions. 

4. Follow Up

Once you’ve read the credit report, you can make your final decision. If the report raised red flags, feel free to reach out the applicant and ask for additional info. 

If you find a dealbreaker, you’ll need to let the applicant know why you decided not to rent to them. You need to provide a letter stating the reason you rejected their application and the information about the credit reporting agency you used. 

Want More Information About How to Run a Credit Check?

If you had been wondering how to run a credit check on rental applicants, we hope this article helped. As you can see, it’s a fairly straightforward process. It’s also worth it for the potential headaches you might save yourself. 

Our article section maintains a wealth of valuable information for landlords. Check it out today and get the best return on your real estate investment!

Cover All Your Bases: 5 Lease Terms a Landlord Can’t Forget

lease terms

Did you know that the number of people renting a home has increased to the highest it has been since the 1960s? The rental market is booming, and landlords are getting top dollar in many markets.

Before you rent your property, you’ll want to make sure you have a solid lease drawn up.

Any good lease agreement should protect both the landlord and the tenant. There are certain things that your lease must include to protect both parties. Keep reading here for five lease terms that you can’t forget.

5 Important Lease Terms to Include

The devil is in the details. As a landlord, you have to think of every situation that could possibly happen and plan for that in the lease. A lengthy lease that spells out everything, including renters’ rights, is much better than a shorter one that leaves many things up in the air.

Here are five things that you should not leave out of your lease.

1. Parties to the Lease and Occupancy Limits

The lease should contain the names of every adult who lives in the property. This ensures that all residents are legally responsible for all terms of the lease. This gives you grounds to evict a tenant who allows roommates who are not on the lease to move in.

Occupancy limits should also be included because you don’t want six people living in a home meant for four. This causes extra wear and tear on your property and could put you in violation of other rules, such as HOA requirements, if your property is part of a condo or town-home complex.

There are also rules surrounding occupancy requirements that differ by state. Make sure your lease complies.

2. The Term of the Lease

The lease should specify exactly when the lease begins and when it ends. There should also be information on what is required when a tenant is going to move out.

Does he or she need to provide notice in writing that they will not be renewing the lease? If they do not provide this, does the lease automatically renew? This should all be spelled out in the lease.

3. Subleasing

What if your tenant wants to sublease the property to another person? Is that allowed? What kind of requirements are there? If you do a background check on your tenants, you might want to do the same for a subleaser.

4. Who Is Responsible for Utilities and Repairs

There should be no question as to who pays for utilities, lawn maintenance, snow removal (if necessary), and other repairs. If the tenant is to make routine repairs like replacing light bulbs, unclogging drains, etc., that should be specified.

5. What Happens if the Lease Is Broken

If the tenant or landlord needs to break the lease for any reason, how will that work? What kind of notice do you have to give? How much rent will the tenant owe?

If the landlord needs to break the lease, what will be provided to the tenant? Things happen that necessitate breaking of leases, so protecting all involved is important.

The Bottom Line

Being a landlord can be a lucrative and rewarding endeavor. As long as you ensure your lease contains these must-have lease terms, the process will likely go smoothly.

If you have an interest in learning more about property management and our real estate resources, explore some of our other blog posts and resources.

How to Report Bad Landlords: A Guide for Tenants and Property Managers

bad landlords

Depending on who you ask, landlords are either contributing to the positive social fabric of a neighborhood or they are social parasites. While it’s not fair to demonize all landlords, many bad landlords have gotten away with crimes for decades without being held accountable. With the help of federal and local authorities, they are held responsible for problems at their properties.

Here are the three best ways to report bad landlords.

1. Try Information or 311

Depending on the severity of your complaint, you may just need to tell someone that your landlord is negligent. Landlords that leave trash around or don’t fix things that they’re supposed to can be reported to local or city authorities.

Often, information lines or 311 calls can ensure that your complaint gets logged and that the local authorities follow up. With the help of 311 or information, you can register a formal complaint and have the city back you up.

When reporting a landlord, authorities will sometimes ask for personal information. Most allow you to complain anonymously. If your landlord is violating a law and you know it, reporting via 311 anonymously can protect you from your landlord’s responses.

2. Seek Out Non-Profits

In most cities and states, there are non-profit tenants’ associations. There might even be one that covers your home that you don’t know about yet.

Go on to a search engine and type “(your city and state) housing association” or “tenants association”. You’ll come up with results that can help you solve the problems you’re dealing with.

Perhaps you don’t want to get the law involved yet. If this is the case, these associations can give you advice on how to report a bad landlord without taking things that far. Often a letter that’s signed by multiple tenants is enough.

If your landlord receives emails, these tenant associations can help you craft the perfect message.

3. Contact HUD

Many people who live in state- or city-controlled housing deal with landlord issues. Sometimes your bad landlord is the city and if this is the case, it can feel like there’s no way out.

Thankfully there is accountability within HUD and other housing authorities. IF you haven’t heard from your landlord or supervisor about a problem that needs to be fixed, contact the housing authority.

If your apartment is controlled by city or state laws or if you’re part of a housing program, you can probably be protected by HUD. A violation from HUD will send the fear of god into your landlord, which might be what it takes when you’re dealing with serious issues.

Bad Landlords Need Accountability

Without accountability, bad landlords get paid to provide unethical living conditions for people who can’t afford to own their home. An unethical landlord must be held accountable so that their tenants can live fairly in healthy and reasonable conditions. Thankfully, there are resources for people being abused by their landlords.

If you want to know more about your landlord, check out our guide for seeking a landlords credit report.

The Renters’ Rights All Tenants Should Know

renters' rights

Even though America is largely a country of homeowners, over 75 million households still live in rented homes. While homeownership offers many freedoms (like you can live with as many pets as the property can accommodate), renting comes with restrictions.

But, when do these renter restrictions cross the line? Did you know that as a renter, you have rights entrenched in law?

This article is all about renters’ rights. A decent understanding of these rights will enable you to make the most of living in a rented property.

The Right to Non-discrimination

The landlord reserves the right to approve or reject a tenant’s application.

You’ve probably come across this statement in your rental or lease application forms. And rightly so, there are legitimate reasons a landlord can deny your application. Common reasons include:

  • Bad credit
  • No verifiable source of income
  • Past evictions
  • Unsatisfactory references
  • Criminal background.

However, it’s illegal for a landlord to reject your application because of your race, gender, sexual orientation, religion, marital status, age, national origin, and disability (physical or mental). This is why if you’re disapproved, you have a right to know the reason, and the reason must be satisfactory.

The Right to a Habitable Home

Are you currently living in a rented home with exposed electrical wires, leaky plumbing, extensive pest infestation or in any other condition that makes the place inhabitable?

If the home ticks any of these characteristics, your right to a habitable home is possibly being violated.

It’s a legal requirement for landlords to ensure the units they are putting up for rent meet the standards of habitability. In the event that a house develops inhabitable conditions after you move in, you have a right to landlord repairs – at no cost to you.

The Right to Privacy

As a homeowner, no one can just storm into your residence and invade your privacy. Even law enforcement officers looking to search your property must have a search warrant– unless probable cause is established.

As a tenant, though, it’s easy to feel that the landlord can barge in at any time. They own the property, after all.

The good news is your right to privacy is spelled out in the Fourth Amendment, as well as in most state and local housing laws. Yes, your landlord can enter your property, but that’s after giving you notice beforehand. Still, they can only enter to inspect the property for structural issues, or when there is a fire or other emergency.

Security Deposits

Many states give landlords the right to ask for a security deposit from tenants. The amount, though, can vary depending on the local laws, length of the lease, and whether you’re moving in with a pet(s).

When you move out, the landlord returns your deposit, less the amount used to fix damages, repaint and clean the house. However, security deposit disputes are very common.

Sometimes landlords won’t return the deposit, other times they return less than a tenant feels justifiable. And other times a tenant parts with more cash, often in cases where the current deposit cannot adequately cover the needed repairs.

As a tenant, know that you have a right to get your deposit back as soon as possible, usually within 30 days. If there’s a dispute, you can take it to a small claims court.

Understanding Renters’ Rights – An Attorney Will Help

While reading this article is a good place to begin in your quest to know your renters’ rights, it’s barely enough. Like most legal issues, landlord-tenant law can be complex.

When you’re looking to rent, or you feel that your rights have been violated, it’s essential to get a landlord-tenant lawyer. This professional will shed more light on your situation.

While at it, here is what you need to know about a landlords credit report.

What You Need to Know About a Landlords Credit Report

landlords credit report

If you are planning on renting property, your landlord may have told you he is going to run a credit check. What a terrifying prospect.

Will he be able to see you didn’t pay your rent on October 1st, 2009? What about your credit cards?

Calm down.

Landlords do this as a means of mitigating risk when renting out properties. There are some things you should be aware of a renter. For example, there are some cases where this may affect your credit score.

Your landlord just wants to make sure you will be able to pay your rent each month. Here we will discuss what you need to know about a landlord’s credit report.

Why Does a Landlord Look at This?

A landlord’s livelihood is dependent on your ability to pay the monthly rent. Legally your landlord can do this, but you must give written permission. This can be written into the rental agreement.

Read the fine print.

This can seem invasive. Understand that you are entering into a legally binding agreement.

What Information Can Be Found?

Depending on the reporting agency your landlord uses, he could receive information from the past seven to ten years. You may see the following:

  • whether you have filed bankruptcy
  • convictions or arrests (depending on the state)
  • recent evictions (depending on the state)
  • late or delinquent bills, including any loans and rent
  • involvements in lawsuits

Your landlord may be able to see your credit score, depending on the reporting agency he chooses. Your landlord can use this in determining whether or not to rent to you. The higher your credit score, the lower the risk you present to him.

How Will He Get a Landlord’s Credit Report?

Your landlord needs your name, address, and either their Individual Taxpayer Identification Number or Social Security Number.

All of this information should be on the rental application.

Make sure you know how much (if any) credit check fees your landlord charges.

Once you have this information and have consent, you can get a credit report from a variety of sources.

Landlord Associations

Some of these organizations will offer landlord’s credit checks for a fee. These will count as hard inquiries that will impact your credit score.

Credit Bureaus

He can receive a report from Equifax, TransUnion, or Experian. These are special reports for landlords and will count as soft inquiries.

Tenant Screening Services

Some of these services will offer credit checks. He will request to know whether or not you, as a renter, meet certain credit requirements. It will count as a soft inquiry.

Being Aware of Landlord-Tenant Law

Before you rent a property, be sure to know some of the basics of landlord-tenant law. You do not need to be a lawyer, but you don’t want to enter into any contracts without proper knowledge.

If you are renting a property and have any questions beyond the landlord’s credit report, feel free to reach out to us.