Tips on Screening and Approving Rental Applicants in Camarillo

In our previous posts about how to rent your home, we guided you through some of the steps you may want to consider when deciding if you want to rent out your Ventura County Home. Now that you have a few applicants that you feel will be a good fit for your home, it’s time to move on to the background and credit checks.

Credit and Background Checks

Deciding the criteria for which you will accept an applicant will ultimately be a personal decision. If your home is in a prime location in Ventura County, you may not have any problems with the number of applications you receive and can afford to be more stringent and accept only the highest qualified tenant. If the location of your home is not as desirable or the rental market declines, you may have to open up your criteria a little more. For instance, our current tenant did not have the best credit history, but she has a stable job with a pretty high income. During the interview process, she explained that the dings on her credit were from a recent divorce and the direct aftermath from that. So after considering everything and contacting her past landlord for reference, we decided that her lower credit did not truly represent her as tenant. Other examples of this could include applicants that are still recovering from the housing market crash of the last decade.

When it comes to tenants’ background checks, you will again have to make some personal choices on what is acceptable to you. Many landlords consider criminal history and/or prior evictions as non-starters. We all know that sometimes things happen in life that are out of our control, so just because someone does have one or more of these items in their past does not mean they are a bad person or will end up being a bad tenant. During the interview process, you may learn that there were extenuating circumstances that led to the blemish on their record. On the flip side though, it would not be difficult for someone to invent a sob story to try and downplay an event. At the end of the day, you want to make sure that you can sleep comfortably at night without worry about the tenant in your home. Always keep this in mind and make sure to try and keep emotion out of it as much as possible when choosing a tenant.

Employment and Rental History

After reviewing the applicants’ background and credit histories, you should narrow down the choices and move on to verifying income and rental history. Just because someone’s background and credit checks out does not mean that they are necessarily telling the truth about everything else on their application. Begin by calling their current employer to verify some of the aspects of their job. At a minimum you want to find out how long they have been employed with the company, how much income they currently make, and ensure that the job is not just a temporary position. After verifying their employment, you also want to call previous landlords to verify their rental history. Make sure that you call more than just their current landlord, as there is a chance a current landlord may not necessarily tell you the truth if they are hoping that you will take a bad tenant away from them. There are many questions you can ask their previous landlords, but your goal is to confirm with the landlord if the applicant is an ideal tenant. Ending the conversation by asking the landlord if they would rent to the tenant again will usually give you a good synopsis on whether this is a person that you want to rent to or not.

Deciding on the applicants

At this point, hopefully you still have at least a handful of applicants for you to make your final decision on. Some experts say that you should process applications in the order in which you receive them in order to avoid any allegations of discrimination. I’m not sure what the chances of this actually occurring are, but it is probably better to be safe than sorry. Also, when you come across applicants that you are going to deny, you should provide them written notification of the denial and state the reasons why they are not a good fit for your rental home. You want to make sure that that these reasons are based on the minimum requirements of the criteria that you developed earlier in the rental process. You also want to keep a copy of all the records pertaining to the applicants in case you need to refer to them at a later date, for whatever reason. This will also help to protect you in case of a discrimination complaint.

Once you find the applicant that you approve of, you need to let them know that their application has been approved. Most prospective tenants look at multiple homes when they are searching for a home to rent, so you want to try and get them to decide and commit to your home as soon as possible. A good way to do this is to require that the security deposit be given to you within a 24 or 48 hour timeframe from acceptance. You can let them know that you cannot hold the property for them pass a certain date.  This small window ensures that you are able to contact one of the other applicants if your first applicant ultimately decides not to move into your home. Since you already stated that you would be requiring a security deposit, this expense should not be unexpected and there should be no reason for them to disagree with it. Once you have their deposit, you want to move into the lease signing and walkthrough as soon as possible, which will be covered in our next blog post.

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