My Last Tenant Was a Bank Robber

Over the past few months I have been getting a number calls from new landlords looking for tenant screening and asking about TenantMagic’s online rental application and background screening program. Many times they relate stories to me about not doing backgrounds checks on their previous tenants and the predictable bad consequences.

One landlord told me that she recently had a tenant taken away by the police in handcuffs. When she inquired why, the police told her that he was being arrested for bank robbery. She told me how surprised she was and that he “was such a friendly guy.” Tenant screening would have shown that being friendly doesn’t necessarily make for a good tenant.

Many of my discussions involve the benefits of requiring background screenings on all tenants 18 and over. She and many other landlords have told me that they are (or think they are) a good judge of character. Not only is this intuition many times incorrect, it can also cause issues with Fair Housing compliance.

My other recent conversation was with a landlord that had her property used as a meth lab. This can be very serious and dangerous. Meth labs can explode and destroy the property. Meth houses also attract meth addicts which many times are also  criminals. Additionally, the chemicals used in meth production are very toxic. Meth house remediation costs can range from $3000 – $25,000 according to this story in the Boston Globe. https://www.bostonglobe.com/news/nation/2013/12/28/meth-lab-cleanup-growing-industry/Mvcx3cpnQ6P6wLOE2ejDuJ/story.html

These stories really demonstrate the importance of doing a comprehensive background check on your tenants. Your rental property is a very large investment and landlords need to make every effort to protect that investment by thoroughly checking out prospective tenants. This includes criminal and eviction history in addition to income, credit and payment histories.

Making judgements based on a single meeting with a potential applicant is unreliable and can potentially result in Fair Housing compliance issues.

Using a quick, easy and free screening program such as TenantMagic, can help assure you that you are getting a qualified tenant which goes a long way to protecting your property investment.

Fair Housing Tips For Landlords

It is critical for landlords to comply with Fair Housing when screening tenants for many reasons– legal, ethical, and business.

However, it is not difficult to avoid problem tenants before the lease is signed and still be fully compliant with Fair Housing regulations. Landlords can check this post out for a go overview of Fair Housing regulations 10 Things Landlords Should Know About Fair Housing

The first thing to remember is to treat every applicant the same.

We have had a large number of new landlords register with TenantMagic and I been getting calls with questions about co-applicants. Some landlords tell me that they give married couples a break on their application fees or do not require the wife to complete an application and background screening.

This is a bad practice and can result in the owner running afoul of Fair Housing regulations.

Any co-applicant must be treated the same regardless if they are married to the primary applicant.

The TenantMagic application instructs all applicants 18 and over to complete the application and authorize the background screening.

This not only helps with Fair Housing compliance but makes good business sense. It important to know if any of your tenants have a felony conviction or a history of collections from creditors.

TenantMagic charges each applicant an application fee. Many landlords I have spoken to feel that a fee for each applicant can pose an obstacle for applying.

My response to the landlord is they can offer to take the fees off of the 1st months’s rent if accepted.

The benefit of charging an application fee upfront, is to minimize the number of applicants that would not qualify (based on Fair Housing allowed criteria).

TenantMagic’s goal is to reduce the time landlords and agents spend with unqualified applicants while providing them with comprehensive information to make an informed decision.

This post is for guidance purposes only and is not intended as legal advice. If you have any questions regarding fair housing laws, please consult an attorney or the proper regulatory agency.

Guide to Choosing the Best Tenant Screening Service 2017 (Part 3)

When choosing the best tenant screening service, agents and landlords need to consider the ease of use for both the applicants and themselves.

In the previous 2 posts we looked at the information provided in the reports and how important it is to have comprehensive reports but not an overwhelming amount of data that can cause analysis paralysis. But, applicants that have difficulty completing an application will bail and the landlord will then get no data and possibly no applicant.

According to industry research https://www.crazyegg.com/blog/why-users-leave-a-website/ one of the top three reasons users leave a web site is when they don’t know what to do.

TenantMagic has designed an application that captures all of the information required for a comprehensive application that can be completed in less than 10 minutes. We fully realize that most people don’t read and designed the process with the minimal amount of text instructions.

Over the past 4 years we have listened to users that have called in with difficulties when completing our application. We often made changes to the application process based on their input. Today our application process is far more efficient than it was when we started and we still listen to our users’ suggestions. We feel this is a main reason why TenantMagic is the best tenant screening service.

There are times when users are challenged by technology and are intimidated by any online experience. In those cases a TenantMagic customer service representative can take their information over the phone. Another reason why TenantMagic is the best tenant screening service.

We have also worked diligently to make sure the application process is easy for agents and landlords. All an agent or owner needs to to is enter the email address of the applicant into the system and TenantMagic does the rest, including handling all customer service for the applicant during the application process.

Guide to Choosing the Best Tenant Screening Services 2017 (Part 1)

Choosing the best tenant screening service
How to choose the best tenant screening service

One question we frequently get at TenantMagic is “what makes TenantMagic better than the rest of the tenant screening companies out there?” With so many different tenant screening companies, we understand that looking for the best screening service might be difficult.  For that reason, we decided to give you our guide on choosing the best tenant screening companies. Today’s post we will look at the importance of comprehensive screenings.

Comprehensive screenings

One important aspect of tenant screening is gathering all relevant information about the tenant. I have spoken to many landlords and agents that use a credit report to qualify a tenant and sometimes they accept a credit report provided by the applicant.

There are 2 reasons why this is bad.

  1. Credit reports give you part of the picture. Eviction reports and criminal reports ore very important to properly evaluate a potential tenant.
  2. As I have written in a previous post, fake credit reports can be purchased on-line. Here is a site that blatantly promotes them. https://fake-credit-score.pdffiller.com/

Many services offer combinations of credit reports, criminal reports, and eviction reports, and others offer credit and criminal reports, with eviction reports as an additional add-on cost. TenantMagic includes eviction reports in the screening report giving owners and agent comprehensive information to make a highly informed decision.

TenantMagic goes one step further after the owner or agent receives the reports.  There are instances when the criminal received from the courts require further explanation. TenantMagic will conduct additional research on criminal reports if further clarification is required.

Additionally, eviction courts do not use social security numbers. This can result in false positives with common names. The TenantMagic program resolves false positives by comparing addresses where the applicant was known to live as reported by the credit bureaus with the addresses where a person with that name was evicted. If there is a match, then we know it was the applicant that was evicted.

In future posts regarding Choosing the Best Tenant Screening Services, I will discuss customer service and ease of use for both the owner/agent and the applicant.