Finding the best residents for your Capitol Hill rental property helps you appreciate them more! Building excellent relationships with quality renters helps them fulfill your expectations when choosing people to live in your properties.
- They pay the rent on time.
- They take excellent care of your property.
- They renew their lease for your rental home for another term.
Without the best residents, property investors cannot reach their long-term financial goals. Rental property owners must always take great care during the renter selection process—no matter what.
However, we realize that in tough times, it's tempting to loosen your criteria about what makes a "good" resident. If you're comfortable with:
- Risking damage to your Capitol Hill houses for rent
- Potentially discriminating against your applicants
- Losses to your investment income
Then it's okay to relax your renter screening rules!
Note: This blog post does not act as a substitute for legal counsel. When in doubt, consult with your trusted attorney or Renters Warehouse DC/NOVA for real-time assistance concerning your DC rental homes!
What Could Go Wrong?
Panicking about an empty rental property during a recession can lead to devastating consequences. When property owners are vulnerable, we often see a rise in scams and "Professional Tenants" taking advantage of investors who are desperate for "any" resident to move in and start paying the rent.
Professional Tenants don't pay the rent, damage your property, refuse to leave, or vacate your rental without notice. Giving these renters access to your property puts you at risk for a long-term, expensive problem. This can ruin the success you want to maintain during a crisis.
Before you make a knee-jerk reaction that allows an unqualified renter to move into your property, take a deep breath. It can be hard to stick to this rule when you aren't collecting a monthly rental payment every month, but this will always hold true: the only thing worse than an empty property is placing a bad renter in your Capitol Hill houses for rent!
Follow the DC Rules for Resident Screening
A professional property manager can help you stay accountable to your resident criteria and screening process. In DC, property owners must follow the laws to avoid claims of discrimination and lawsuits when screening renters.
When screening rental applicants, property owners should require critical information from a potential resident, including:
- A driver's license or state-issued ID
- The applicant's date of birth and Social Security number.
These details help make sure you screen the right person. If an acceptable form of ID or Social Security number isn't attached to any background information, chances are you've received false information from a Professional Tenant!
Carefully Review Personal Information Within the Law
Dealing with private information can be tricky. Property owners must follow the Fair Credit Reporting Act when handling credit report information during the screening process. You must also be careful about how you use the information in a background screening to accept or deny a renter.
We strongly encourage property investors to consult legal counsel and work with a property manager when screening residents. These professionals can help protect you from lawsuits and from choosing the wrong residents for your rental properties.
The screening process should include:
- A credit history review
- An assessment of prior rental history
- An employment and income verification
- A Social Security fraud search
- A Sex Offender registry check
- A National Criminal Alias search
- A thorough pet screening (for pet-friendly properties).
Before You Start
Capitol Hill property owners must get an applicant's written permission to run a credit report and proceed with screening. Make this part of your rental application, and let renters know you can't process their application without permission to conduct your screening process.
Watch for Signs of Trouble
Besides the information you'll find through a background check, watch for other signs that you may have difficulties with a potential resident. Professional Tenants will often:
- Offer cash upfront to cover the first month's rent and all deposits or fees.
- Talk freely about their extensive understanding of rental housing law.
- Have an answer for anything, including gaps in their rental or employment history.
- Provide fake references (that most investors don't take time to check!)
If a potential resident seems too good to be true and they don't meet your criteria, it's okay to deny them for your Capitol Hill houses for rent! Don't fall for cash upfront or fail to do a deep dive into any offered references.
Shore-Up Your Renter Screening Process in Tough Times
Don't set yourself up for a scam artist to take advantage of you during tough times. Review your screening process and stick to your criteria! A moment of weakness and the wrong resident can make tough times even worse for Capitol Hill investors.
Sometimes a third-party, impartial professional is the best solution to hold fast to your resident criteria and screening best practices. Renters Warehouse DC/NOVA applies our Rent Estate™ strategy while following the laws for screening residents! When choosing the next renter for your Capitol Hill rental home, trust our Professional Landlords to protect you from Professional Tenants—and find quality residents with minimal downtime!
How do we make sure our property owners get paid during a crisis? Learn more with our free resource, the Collecting Rent in a Crisis Handbook!