Tenant screening is a crucial step when you are looking for a new tenant to fill your Los Angeles property. If you skip this essential step in the process, you are opening up yourself and your investment for dangerous losses that could severely put a dent on your income. Knowing who resides in your Los Angeles property begins with an application. You may choose to use a physical version that you can hand to the applicant when you meet with them or, with an online version that gives you the opportunity to save time and paper.
Here are four tips to help your Los Angeles property with the screening process.
#1: Start with the Pre-Screening
Keeping up with the application fees to run full tenant screenings on every single person that shows interest in your property can be difficult and extremely time-consuming. Our Los Angeles Property Management Company recommends that you begin with a pre-screening.
This starts with the process of letting your applicants know what your expectations will be. Your listing should include information such as:
- the rent rate
- smoking policies
- pet policies
- and any credit/income requirements that you may have
Letting your applicant know these things from the get-go, shows them that you are going to be honest and transparent with them, and will allow them to gracefully decline if they know that they will not be the right fit for your Los Angeles property.
Tip: Our Los Angeles Property Management Company advises you to have all of your policies in writing and have them pertain to all residents that apply to your Los Angeles Property. Sticking to your policies that you’ve created will help to guard against appearing as if you are discriminating against an applicant.
#2: Meet Face-to-Face
Meeting an applicant face-to-face allows you to handle several items of business.
As the second round of prescreening:
- It allows you a chance to ask questions
- Give a quick tour of the property
- And collect the application fee for the full tenant screening
While this does not always hold true, if an applicant shows up late, does not have the full fee on hand, or is untidy in their appearance, you may think twice about them as a future tenant.
Tip: Do keep in mind that just because an applicant appears to be everything you’d ever hoped for, our Los Angeles Property Management Company recommends that you do not skip the tenant screening. It is your first line of defense.
#3: Always Check Credit, Criminal, and Eviction Reports
A full tenant screening should include a credit, criminal, and eviction report. This will give you a fairly well rounded view of the history of person that wishes to rent your Los Angeles property. You’ll want to watch for negative trade-lines that indicate late or non-payments, as well as bankruptcies and collections owed on. When you read over a credit history it is always a great idea to look into the thorough details and not focus entirely on the score or recommendation given.
Additionally, verifying employment and checking with prior landlords are also part of the screening process, though most Los Angeles Property tenant screening companies may not cover these. If your applicant passes the credit, criminal, and eviction check, you still should not leave these two things to chance. Unfortunately, most people do lie about their income and past experiences.
An eviction may not be on the records quite yet if it is in the process of being filed for the property that they are currently in or the landlord may have decided to take an alternative route that might not show on a typical tenant screening.
Tip: Our Los Angeles Property Management Company suggest that you reach out to employers and ask for pay stubs. This will help give you peace of mind that the applicant is gainfully employed. Checking with prior landlords (usually two or three back) ensures that they are not trying to slip past your safeguards.
#4: Follow the Law
There are local and federal laws that dictate the process that you will need to follow to find, screen, and accept a tenant for your Los Angeles property. While the federal laws will cover the country, you’ll also want to check in on your state, county, and even city laws to make sure that you are fully informed.
Ignorance is not an excuse that can be used if someone claims that you’ve broken the law as a landlord or property manager, and it can cost you in money, time, and reputation. These laws are meant to help you both, so being fully aware is a must. They are always changing and updating to meet the needs of landlords and tenants and better help to regulate that relationship.
The Fair Housing Act touches on situations from the moment that you start marketing your property and all the way into the actual tenancy and was put into practice in 1968. It has been updated as different situations arise. On whole, it’s meant to keep people from being turned away from housing based on race, color, national origin, religion, sex, familial status, or disability, though some local laws will add to these, so it’s best to make sure that you are well aware of all laws that apply to your property.
Furthermore, you will want to be very careful in how you word your advertisements for your Los Angeles property, as well as what questions that you ask those that apply. If you even appear to be leading them in one direction or another – for example:
- Indicating that an apartment close to the playground would be better for the applicants when you find out that they have children and not offering to show other properties as well – that may be seen as discriminatory.
- Refusing a disabled applicant reasonable accommodations such as a service animal in a property that does not allow pets may also be seen as discrimination.
- There are also exemptions to the FHA that might com into play.
Once you have found an applicant that appears qualified and has passed the pre-screening, you will need to receive permission to run a tenant screening on them. While criminal checks are performed on public criminal records, it is a ideally recommend to be truthful and clear with what kinds of reports you will be running on your applicant. You will need direct permission to run a credit report. Some tenant screening sites make it easier on you by reaching out to the tenant directly for this permission.
Tip: Our Los Angeles Property Management Company recommends that your consider keeping a signed permission slip on file for your records as well.
Once you have chosen the best applicant to become your tenant you will sit down with them to sign the lease. This is a legal document that should always be signed by both parties before the tenant is allowed to move into the property. The lease will dictate what is expected from all parties involved so that if there are any questions at a later date, you may refer back to the document. This will be one of the most important ways (aside from the screening process itself) that’ll protect your property and your investment. It legally binds you both to the promises made and will help to simplify your landlord-tenant relationship.
Finding that perfect tenant can be stressful and exhausting, but you’ll find the policies that work best for your Los Angeles property every time you go through the process. Speak with other landlords in Los Angeles and ask advice. While learning from your own mistakes is a necessary part of growing your business, learning from others so that you can avoid the mistakes that they made is even better.
Choosing an incredible location that will appeal to the types of tenants that you’d like to attract, going through a full and detailed tenant screening process, and abiding by the laws set up to govern the landlord-tenant relationship will help set you and your new tenant on a smoother path and encourage an genuine and authentic working relationship.
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