A rental property, be it a stand-alone home or an apartment unit, represents a significant investment on the part of a landlord; therefore, when it comes to the possibility of entrusting that investment to a prospective tenant, it is paramount for a landlord to ensure that they are doing so with a responsible and trustworthy individual.
When it comes time to evaluate a prospective new renter of a residential property or apartment unit, landlords and property managers will engage in a process known as tenant screening. This process is to assess the applicant tenant and their likelihood of living up to their responsibilities as outlined in the terms of the lease or rental agreement. The outcome of this process will determine if the landlord will approve or deny the application for tenancy.
The process begins when the prospective tenant fills out a rental application, along with a application fee and/or holding deposit, if applicable. The application process will allow the landlord or property manager to acquire identifying information on the applicant, including their current address, recent employment history, social security number, date of birth, credit report, and an agreement with the applicant to run a background check. The applicant is typically required to present a government-issued photo ID in compliance with the Federal Trade Commission’s (FTC) identity theft Red Flags Rule.
Tenant screening reports typically involve compiling data based on numerous public record searches and personal recommendations, including but not limited to credit reports, prior evictions, criminal records, sex offender registries, references from acquaintances or family members, employment verification, and more.
Many landlords and property managers employ the services of an experienced tenant screening company or service when vetting an applicant; these companies will gather the required information on the applicant, as well as compiling reports based on public records such as those mentioned. In recent years, some applicants have the ability to compile their own personal reports to present to prospective property managers and landlords, however, in most cases, this will be in addition to the company or service providers own research.
Landlords and property managers, for their part, must abide by state and federal laws regulating consumer reporting and the Fair Housing Law, which is found in Title VIII of the Civil Rights Act of 1968, which prohibits discrimination concerning the sale, rental, and financing of housing based on race, religion, national origin, and since 1974, sex. Since 1988, the act protects people with disabilities, families with children, and pregnant women.
In addition, landlords have a right and obligation to protect themselves and their property, as well as their residents, from prospective tenants with criminal backgrounds, such as those with a history of convictions for violent felonies. It is therefor deemed reasonable for a landlord to eliminate convicted criminals from applying for tenancy if said conviction has occurred within a reasonable period of time.
There are numerous resources out there for landlords and property managers to consult in order to ensure that they are in compliance with laws and regulations regarding their dealings with prospective tenants and their applications processes. In addition, there are also many public sources of information available about the rights landlords have that protect them and their properties. Within these pages we will detail the majority of them.