As a Landlord Lawyer, the primary service we offer is evicting bad tenants. However, the best way to avoid the expenses (and lost cash flow) of an eviction is to avoid having to evict at all.
Screening Tenants saves Landlords Money by decreasing chances of Eviction
The best way to avoid the cost of an eviction is to properly screen your prospective tenants. By properly screening tenants, you eliminate most of the tenants that would be most likely to default on the lease.
Evictions are avoided (or become inevitable) during the leasing process when you are reviewing leases. It is very tempting to want to fill a vacancy and be in a hurry during the leasing process. After all, when the property is vacant, it draws no income and costs the business. However, when landlords or property managers fail to properly screen applicants, they usually create more costs down the road.
Not every tenant is right for every property. It is the property manager’s job to find the right tenant for your property.
How to Properly Screen a Prospective Tenant?
The first objective is to develop criteria for evaluating the tenant. This criteria should be objective — not subjective to the Landlord or manager (i.e. “I have a good feeling about this one.”).
The way to develop objective criteria is to create a list of things you want in a tenant. An example would be:
- Tenant is employed
- Tenant has monthly income that is three times the rent
- Tenant has disclosed all room mates, occupants
- Tenant has not been previously evicted
- Tenant has a credit score of XXX
- Tenant has no felony convictions
- Tenant has not been convicted of a misdemeanor in X years
- Tenant has good references from previous landlords
The above list is just a sample of a brainstorming session you should have with yourself. You should customize the criteria for the ideal tenant that would lease the type of property or asset class (Class A, B, C, etc) that you have available.
If you own multiple properties in different areas or asset class categories, you will have different criteria for each property. The goal is to take the thinking and guessing out of the tenant selection process. With objective criteria, leasing becomes easy. You are now looking for the applicant that “checks all the boxes” of your tenant criteria.
Now when faced with tough decisions, you allow the formula to make the decision for you. For example, you have a tenant that you initially liked. However, after reviewing their application, you see they did not meet all of your criteria. Now you know that your initial gut feeling was wrong, and you have an easy way of delivering the bad news.
In delivering the news to the applicant, you merely say, “Sorry but our policy requires X and your application does not meet that criteria.”
Avoid allegations of Illegal Discrimination with Objective Criteria for all Tenants
A very important component of having objective criteria for screening tenants is to prevent illegal discrimination, as well as the appearance of illegal discrimination.
By having objective criteria that is required of all applicants, you avoid the allegation that you denied housing to a person for an illegal reason. Legally, you cannot discriminate against a person based on their race, religion, family status, country of origin, age or disability. But you can legally discriminate against persons who have bad credit, or a history of not paying their rent.
You can also deny housing to persons based on their criminal records. Every landlord can decide how much they will tolerate when it comes to background checks. Some landlords may allow convicted felons and others may ban convicted felons. There are no discrimination laws when it comes to a person’s criminal history.
Avoid Evictions with Proper Screening Criteria for New Tenant Applications
Sometimes evictions cannot be avoided. Sometimes circumstances arise that cause some tenants to stop paying rent. Landlords can choose how to handle those situations on a case by case basis.
But many evictions can be avoided in the leasing office with proper screening criteria.
Just as we have stated that having a written lease avoids problems down the road, having objective screening criteria avoids even more problems that can arise with a tenant that is not a good match for the chosen property.
If you do need Eviction Services in Oklahoma City, call the Landlord Lawyer (405) 724-8112
If you do need eviction services, contact us online to start the process. We represent only Landlords and Property Managers in Oklahoma.
We charge flat fees for eviction services, and we work diligently to get the tenant out as fast as possible so you can turn the property around and get back to cash flowing.