5 Myths About Tenant Screening

By Ashley Paskill on August 13, 2023

Screening potential tenants is one of the most important parts of being a landlord. While there is no surefire way to know exactly how a tenant will be, it is still important to run background checks and check references. As with many things, there are myths that many landlords believe about the tenant screening process. Knowing the truths behind these myths can help you better screen tenants so you have the best renting experience possible.

Myth 1: Roommates do not need to be screened

Everyone who is signing the lease needs to be screened equally and fairly. Each potential tenant needs to hold equal weight. If you are screening three roommates and one has some previous issues, do not let the other two overshadow the red flags of the one. Ignoring the red flags of just one can lead to issues down the line. That said, be sure to look at the overall picture of all the tenants.

Myth 2: Social media is a surefire way to screen tenants

While social media can be useful in learning about a tenant, it needs to be taken with a grain of salt. They may seem like great people on social media, but most people only post the best version of themselves online, meaning you only get the best qualities from social media alone. Also, there may be some useful information from their social media pages that can contribute to determining how they will be as tenants, but there may be information that is irrelevant that you may be tempted to use as evidence to not rent to them. This is illegal. If you find out that a potential tenant is part of a protected group from research on social media and they find out, they have grounds to sue. If you feel like you will not be able to control your biases of things you see on social media, it may be best to skip social media research altogether.

Myth 3: Employers are not good references

If you are renting to students, it is likely they may not have a landlord reference if they previously lived in the dorms. While they can use their RA as a reference, they may also resort to using an employer as a reference. This may not be ideal, but employers can provide some crucial information that can tell you if a tenant will be a good employee or not. An employer can tell you how reliable a person is and may even be willing to help verify income information so that you can get a sense of the income-rent ratio. Keep in mind that an employer may be hesitant to give out income information.

Image: Andrea Piacquadio via https://www.pexels.com/photo/job-applicant-passing-her-documents-3760072/

Myth 4: It is impossible to properly screen international tenants

As a landlord, it is crucial that you screen each tenant thoroughly and fairly. If you rent to students, many of these students may be coming to the school from other countries. It can seem difficult or even impossible to screen international renters. Thankfully, with technology and other resources, you can go through a similar screening process with international renters. You can use video calling software like Zoom to interview tenants. Just keep in mind that they are likely in a different time zone. While other countries may not have the same credit reporting systems in place, there are still ways to run a credit report and a background check. Nova Credit allows you to access international credit profiles and can give information such as a credit score, aggregate risk attributes, employment history, and other useful screening information. Keep in mind that as a landlord, you are legally unable to discriminate against someone for national origin. In some states, it is even illegal to require proof of legal residency or citizenship as a prerequisite for renting.

Myth 5: Screening tenants will perfectly eliminate problem tenants

You have gone through all of the documentation, interviews, and paperwork and you think you have the perfect tenant. On paper, they are exactly what you were looking for. They have paid rent perfectly on time in the past, all of their previous landlords love them, and they are overall a good person. However, once they move in and you get to know them, they are not as perfect as you had hoped. Unfortunately, this can happen. Circumstances can change really quickly, especially if you are dealing with college students. A simple change in income can make paying rent super difficult. Their life circumstances may change and they need to move home, causing them to break the lease. No matter how perfect someone may seem, life can change in an instant and they may need to handle things. Even if circumstances do not change, people can easily make themselves look better on paper than they are in person. This is why it is so crucial to get references and have a thorough screening of each tenant.

There are myths about screening tenants, but once you look past these and know the truth, you can more effectively screen tenants.

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