A quick Google search using the words “landlord horror stories” results in nearly 200,000 hits. Website after website is devoted to stories about landlords who find out far too late that the prospective tenants who seemed like the perfect match cause problems so severe they have to eventually be evicted, a process that can be long and arduous.
Some tenants quit paying rent. They may have a history of evictions. Others may have a serious criminal history. Landlords have discovered after the fact they have rented the property to a sex offender. All landlords should conduct a tenant screening background check prior to signing the lease agreement in order to avoid having their own landlord/tenant horror story.
Landlords need to conduct both background checks and credit checks on prospective tenants
Landlords need to have each adult who is a prospective tenant fill out a detailed application including authorizing the landlord to do credit checks and background checks. If more than one person is hoping to move in, it is possible that one person may have stellar credit with no skeletons to be revealed in the credit checks, but the other one may have monumental debts on their credit report along with numerous eviction reports and a criminal history.
- Credit checks: Landlords often charge prospective tenants a fee to do credit checks. The credit check reveals whether or not the prospective tenant has the income to pay the rent and whether they have a history of late payments.
- Background checks: A background check reveals whether the prospective tenant has any evictions on their record, whether they have a criminal history as well as relevant information that may be found in other public records.
Fair Housing Act (FHA) Compliance
Some landlords may be wary about running afoul of the FHA, which prevents landlords from refusing to rent property to people based on discrimination. People who have poor credit or a criminal history are not in a protected class under FHA and the FHA does not require landlords to rent property to them.
Doing credit checks and background checks can save landlords money as well as the stress and headaches that can be caused by renting to an unknown criminal or a non-paying tenant.