Rental Detective

Screening Applications

“Don’t believe what they say on their application … verify it!”
– Jeff Christensen, 2010

Everyone claims they are the best choice, promising to pay on time and take good care of the home … but many of those claims prove to be false. So how do you effectively screen a rental application?

  1. FIRST, HAVE THEM Fill ONE OUT – You can get them online or from an office supply store. Each adult should fill one out COMPLETELY, legibly and leaving NO BLANKS. Have them sign a release statement, giving you the right to run their credit report and contact their references. Also, remember to charge each adult $20 – $40 to apply … you will need that to pay for the credit & criminal reports.
  2. RUN THEIR NATIONWIDE CRIMINAL REPORT – Focus on “the majors” (felonies, multiple DUI’s, sex crimes) and not so much on “the minors” (misdemeanors, old marijuana charges, DWLS). Warning – all states report into “nationwide” criminal reports. Consider also that many good people did wrong things in the past that they will NEVER do again!
  3. RUN THEIR LOCAL COUNTY CRIMINAL REPORT – Use the Pierce County LINX system to check for charges in Pierce County. Sometimes a charge will appear on the LOCAL RECORD but be missed by a NATIONAL REPORT … AND YOU DON’T WANT TO MISS ANYTHING!
  4. RUN THEIR CREDIT REPORT – A score of 600 or more is preferred. You do NOT want to see ANY accounts in collections from the last 2-3 years from apartment complexes or for “the consumer basics” (utility bills, VISA cards, TV or cell phone invoices). Look for indications of RESPONSIBLE BEHAVIOR.
  5. CALL THEIR PRESENT LANDLORD – How long have they been there and are they there now? What is their rent? Did they have a co-signer? How many lates? Would the landlord rent to them again? Don’t be afraid to ask blunt questions … if you offend someone you can always apologize!
  6. CHECK COUNTY RECORDS – Verify that the name of the owner of record MATCHES the name of the landlord that they gave you. If it doesn’t, call the applicant and ask for an explanation.
  7. DRIVE BY WHERE THEY SAY THEY LIVE – Do you see cars on the lawn? Bags of garbage piled on the side? A big dog chained to an old refrigerator in the front? Leopards don’t change their spots and people that live this way are probably going to do the same things if you let them into your home!
  8. MAKE A DECISION – Assemble all the data that you have gathered and consider your “gut feelings”, make a “PROS & CONS” list for each applicant and (finally) MAKE AN INFORMED DECISION to ACCEPT, ACCEPT WITH CONDITIONS or REJECT the applicant.

Next we will learn a few things about the rental contract and what it should contain:

PM – 104 The Rental Agreement