Not what landlords want to hear. In fact, a version of that sentence is usually what starts the road to eviction court. That sentence is also what scares people from becoming landlords in the first place. There are all kinds of strategies to deal with bad tenants, and how to handle their eviction or removal from your rental property. But the number one strategy is to:
KEEP BAD TENANTS FROM EVER MOVING IN
Easier said than done you might think. True. I think everyone who has been in this business for any length of time has been through an eviction or two. I definitely have. But there are ways to minimize the number of evictions you have. The best way is to do a thorough background check. There are many websites out there that will do background checks on your potential renters – just google ‘tenant background checks’ and see for yourself.
What I Look For in a Background Check
There are several key areas I cover in a background check to have a pretty good chance that a prospective tenant is not a ‘Prescription for Eviction‘. You want to pretty much know if that tenant can pay the rent, will pay the rent, and won’t trash your place. Also you don’t want them involved with other people who might trash your place or get the police called. Here is what I am most interested in:
- Employment – If they don’t have any income, they won’t be able to pay the rent. I want to know that they have money coming in each month and that my rent payment will not take up more than about 30% of their income. I make sure to get verification from an employer.
- Opinions of Previous Landlords – I would like more than one, but many tenants come from being foreclosed from a home or maybe have been living with Mom and Dad. Do the best you can with this one, and take all opinions with a grain of salt. But definitely can the ones with bad references.
- Evictions – If they have one – DON’T RENT TO THEM. Not only do you not want to rent to someone who will probably repeat their behavior, but as landlords I think we need to send a strong message that “if you get evicted, you won’t be able to rent ANYWHERE, again.”
- Criminal Background – This is a wide-ranging criteria. If the tenant is 30 but got busted smoking a joint in high school, I’m not too worried. If they are a sex offender – b-bye!
- Credit – In today’s economy, if you don’t rent to people with anything but stellar credit, you will have a lot of vacancies. This is the least important of my five factors. I like to check it though to make sure they are paying at least some of their bills.
But Can I Get This Information For Free?
Now you can. I’ve been using a website for a little while now and have been very impressed with the results. As you can see from the picture, when you first come to the website, they ask you to put in your state. Then they take you to a page to sign up with a username, password, and email address (what site doesn’t these days?).
For my own state of Minnesota, I can search all criminal cases, judgements, and evictions filed against a tenant. Furthermore I found a link to the credit reporting site Experian, and their website for landlords to check credit reports. The cost for the Experian credit report is $14.95. You have to create an account for it and get your prospective tenant’s permission, but that should not be a problem.
At least it should not be a problem if they want to rent from you!
Deadbeat Tenant also has some good forms for leases, evictions, tenant screenings and other things a landlord might need. It seems like kind of a new site because there are no posts in the forum or listings for rentals or sales of real estate, at least in my state. I think it would probably be wise for them to drop those features and concentrate on screening tenants.
Otherwise this looks like a nice, free alternative to all the expensive background check services out there. Enjoy!