Pre-Screen Rental Applications and Possibly Refund Money, Avoid Vandalism
Written by David Lowrey, Owner of Stress Free Property Management
The idea here is that you do some checks before you spend the rental applicant’s money on THE background checks. That way, if they are clearly not qualified, you can refund the application fee back to the applicant before you spend any money.
Now I know there are some landlords that will keep the money, no matter what and I don’t have the space to argue this point in this article. However, as a high-volume Tampa property management company, I have come to understand the importance of pissing off, as few people as possible.
People, right or wrong, get really upset when they pay a $50 or $100 application and you deny them. Often this is unavoidable if you find truly negative things on their credit and criminal background checks. You spent the $25 or $50 to the national reporting agencies and found an eviction or a felony charge that violated your written standards for a new tenant. However, sometimes you can quickly prescreen an application, before you spend the money on the background checks. We prescreen the following:
- Do they income qualify? – we normally require 3 times the monthly rent in gross income
- Do They have decent rental history? – 95% of the time applicant tells the truth on their application
- Do they have decent job history? 95% of the time applicant tells the truth.
- Have this listed a previous eviction or criminal background (that we would deny them over)?
- Are there too many roommates. Roommate are not a protective class under Fair Housing. We almost always say no the 3 roommates or more.
- Do they have pets that violate our standards such as 3 cats or an aggressive dog breed?
The next thing we do is check the county clerk of court records to see if there are any active evictions or criminal actions. Sometimes, the national databases will miss something, or it is so new or on going and they haven’t picked it up yet.
At the end of this process, we either feel like they are a good candidate and run the credit and criminal background checks, or we deny them and refund their rental application. Once we run the credit and criminal checks, the application fee is non-refundable no matter what.
Now, I know this might seem like a lot of work before running the official background checks. You might feel like you should get paid for this prescreening work. However, once you get the hang of it, the prescreening will only take a few minutes. By refunding their application prior to spending money on the credit and criminal checks, if they don’t qualify, we hid off a lot of trouble. People will file Better Business Bureau Complaints, vandalize the home, flag your ads on the internet, and all sorts of things if they get pissed for being denied, for something you decided just by looking at the application.
Another benefit is just good karma. A lot of lower income or working-class families just can’t afford to be dropping $50 or $100 bucks all over town and getting denied. If we clearly see they are not qualified before spending money, and refund them their application fee, they appreciate it and are far less upset with our company. As a large Tampa property management company, our reputation is important, so we decided to go this route. Hope you find this helpful.