Tenant Screening: Homework Pays Off
“Screening tenants is probably the most important task a property owner undertakes.” These words of wisdom come from Property Management Manual for Massachusetts Rental Owners, 4th edition, published by HAP, Inc. Too often we at HAC hear a landlord lament renting to someone who “seemed like such a nice person” without checking references or credit and then regretting that decision. Following are excerpts from the HAP property management manual chapter on tenant screening. Procedures on obtaining a manual are included at the end of this information.
In general, an owner wants to find a tenant who will:
- Pay the rent in full and on time.
- Keep the unit clean and not cause damage.
- Not disturb the quiet enjoyment of other building occupants.
- Not engage in illegal activities.
- Abide by the rules established for the building and other terms of the tenancy.
Your decision about whether someone will be a good tenant must be solely based on real and objective criteria, and each applicant should be considered in a fair and consistent manner.
First, establish your selection criteria. How many people do you want to allow in your unit? The State Sanitary Code will give you guidance on required square footage of living and sleeping space. What rent will you require? This will help you determine approximately what income the family will need to afford the rent and utilities for which they would be responsible. Third, establish any other restrictions or rules for occupancy. This should be written down and provided to each potential tenant. Remember, to comply with fair housing laws, every applicant should be treated fairly and uniformly.
Screening applicants takes time. Although checking references and credit information may seem unnecessarily time-consuming, it will help you find the best possible tenant and is virtually guaranteed to save you money in the long run. A summary of the types of checking you should do follows.
This is a basic outline of what is covered in more detail in the HAP manual, which has 20 chapters of valuable information for landlords. It is to every property owner’s advantage to buy and read this guide. If you want to purchase a copy for $25, contact:
322 Main Street
Springfield, MA 01105
Attn: Stephanie Oullette
Stephanie can also be reached at 800-332-9667, ext. 1612.