What is the application and screening process?

Landlord and Tenant with Rental ApplicationWe all know that social media gives us an easy access to view the multitude of new homes and apartments without even leaving our office chair.  Once you have narrowed down your search for that perfect new home, you will be required to advance that search by getting up from your comfy chair and talking to your potential new landlords.  You will want to protect yourself by viewing the available units, searching the grounds and analyzing the surrounding areas. Most importantly, you should be asking the right questions of the new management company to allow yourself all information to make the best decision.  You, of course, are most interested in knowing all the facts about the new unit and property, but what actions will your potential landlord need to take to make sure that you are the ‘perfect’ tenant? That would be the application and screening process.

That process begins with you completing a rental application, which is typically, your expense to pay. This comprehensive application form is deliberately designed to obtain personal information on you as a future tenant, such as your legal name, social security number, employment, criminal and eviction history.  Once you have completed the form, you will be required to sign indicating that all information is correct and authorize the management company to obtain a tenant screening report in accordance with the information that you submitted.

The majority of all landlords rely on a tenant screening company to produce individual reports on potential new renters.  The purpose of the report is to determine whether the potential tenant will be able to fulfill the terms of the lease agreement and hopefully insure that they will take care of their new home.  The findings in the completed screening will assist the management company in their decision as to whether they will approve your application or deny tenancy.  Each landlord has their own criteria in which they use to evaluate whether or not they will accept or reject an applicant.

Once you have provided authorization for the potential landlord to run a tenant screening report on you, the landlord will determine just how much information they will need.  The reports received from the outside tenant screening company can range from a basic credit check, a FICO credit score, verification of your social security number to a eviction history, criminal background check, sex offender list, terrorist list and more. Due to the fact that once the landlord approves a new tenant and he/she has moved into a new home or apartment, it can sometimes be difficult to evict even when there are issues of non-payment or illegal behavior.  More and more, because of that fact, landlords and/or management companies tend to go a step further and request additional information available from screening companies that reports evictions, lawsuits, bankruptcies, judgments, registered sex offender status, etc.  I know you may be thinking that all of this information is an invasion of your privacy.  But, what if you were accepted as a tenant, living in this great place and then you meet your new next door neighbor just to find out that he has a criminal background or worse, is a registered sex offender.  It just may not settle so well with you knowing that the management company may not be able to evict him if an issue was to arise.  Therefore, these extended background checks protect not only management but all of the residents. A simple credit report will provide the needed information to determine if the applicant will be able pay the rent, but it does not include whether they are a convicted rapist or wanted for criminal activity.  If an applicant was reported by their previous landlord for theft, violence and/or damages, the screening report will provide future landlords with the information to make sound decisions.  It is most definitely the landlord’s responsibility to provide a safe community for you to live in.

Other information that your potential landlord will need to know is if you had been evicted from any previous residences.  What landlord wants to bring in a new tenant that may not accept and follow the expectations of the signed lease agreement?  Expect that they will request records filed in the state you are in and in the state where you may be moving from.

Employment verification is a must due to the landlord’s need to know if you have the necessary monthly income to cover your rental payment  in addition to the additional expenses that come with a new home or apartment.  This portion of the screening report will verify when you were employed and your salary.  Every management company has their own ‘debit to income ratio’ requirements.  Some companies require 2 – 3 times the rent in net income.  Generally speaking, when looking for a new home to rent, the monthly payments that you should be willing to accept should be somewhere around 30% of your net income – that is your actual ‘take home pay’.  Remember that this monthly rental expense needs to include things like utilities, insurance, water charges, etc., in addition to your rent payment amount.  It is definitely in your best interest to know how much you can afford prior to even applying for a new apartment or home because the landlord will be checking out these important facts.  Why waste your time and management’s time if you can’t afford the place?

One of the newer inclusions of the tenant screening process is the social security number verification.  This section of the report will verify that applicants are who they say they are, confirm all previous addresses and identify potential fraud.  They also assist in confirming eviction history reports and criminal records.  Some applicants may provide falsified social security numbers to hide their criminal history, evictions or even illegal immigration status. Be expected to provide your social security number so that the landlord can protect their property from fraud.  We all know that your SSN is something that you don’t normally want to share with others, but it will be required.

During your initial application process, you will most likely be required to pay an application fee along with the tenant screening fee.  If there are no blemishes on your credit, background or criminal background check, there is likely nothing to worry about.  Your new landlord will contact you about potential move-in dates and when you can meet in person to sign the lease agreement.