How to screen tenants properly

It is essential that landlords screen prospective tenants to avoid getting lumped with a ‘bad deal’ that could end up becoming annoying and costly.

“It is my experience, and I may be biased here, but many problem tenants are usually placed by the landlords themselves who often do not screen tenants thoroughly enough.”

At a training session held recently, stressed the importance of letting agents or property owners screening potential tenants properly.

There is a step by step process to be used and advises all letting agents to use this to qualify tenants and, thereby, reduce the landlord’s risk.

“It is my experience, and I may be biased here, but many problem tenants are usually placed by the landlords themselves who often do not screen tenants thoroughly enough.”

Beattie says if all the checks are done properly, it does reduce the risk of bad tenants moving in.

When a prospective tenant applies to rent a property, he should complete a detailed application form and include a copy of his ID or passport, three to six month’s bank statements, proof of income and references from previous landlords. In addition to this the letting agent will conduct a credit check with the relevant credit bureau.

One would usually use two main criteria in choosing a tenant, says Beattie. “Firstly, does all the information given to us tie up. Is there a clear credit record, is the income high enough and does the amount on the salary slip provided match the bank statement?

“Also, does the bank statement reflect the rental payments going out on time each month and are the references given good?”

Secondly, he says often a good gut feel about the person applying to rent a property is to be trusted.

“After many years in this industry I rely on both criteria being filled – if the facts seem good but we get a bad feeling about the person, the application will be rejected.”

Ultimately, the final decision does rest with the landlord, but Beattie says they do try to advise correctly and make sure that the landlord’s motivation for renting to a specific tenant is the right one.

“It is sometimes better, even if the landlord is stretched financially, to leave the unit empty and wait for the right tenant than to pick the first one that comes along and later find he is not reliable or does not look after the property.”

He says a professional agent realises it is in his interest to choose decent tenants, those that will care for the home as their own, pay their rent on time and are good neighbours.

“Although the tenant screening process is not a guarantee that nothing will go wrong, it does help in choosing the right person.”

With the PIE Act and the Consumer Protection Act now in place, it is important that the right choices be made before a contract is signed, as getting rid of a bad tenant later is lengthy and costly.

If and when cases do arise that tenants need to be evicted, it is important that the problem is addressed quickly and the landlord or agent acts on the first sign of any trouble. A good agent will notice immediately if rent payments have not come through or if there is a problem with the tenant, he will start negotiations to rectify matters. It is proactive measures that result in defaulting tenants leaving with minimal or no monetary losses for the landlord.

Proactive rent collection generally makes eviction unnecessary, but should an eviction attorney be needed and if the agent has kept all correspondence with the tenant, it will make the case less complicated, quicker and perhaps less costly.