Many people think tenant-screening means only obtaining a current credit report. This information is important in today’s rental market and they contain more details than ever before. There are continual changes to the Fair Credit Reporting Act, FCRA, because landlords, employers, and businesses consider credit ratings a valuable source.
Then why is a credit report not enough? Running a credit history and relying on just one area for approving an applicant is simply not comprehensive enough. A credit report just does not give you ALL the facts, and in particular, does not reflect how that person will maintain your property. Credit reports do contain a lot of information, but you need to have several sources to give you a “complete picture” of the person you are considering as a future tenant.
This process starts with our comprehensive tenant application. This gives us written permission from the applicant to obtain a credit report, which is an important part of the Fair Credit Reporting Act. Without this authorization, property owners are liable for illegally obtaining credit information.
The application also provides us with other information needed to determine the tenant’s qualifications.
- Rental history or ownership – how will they take care of the property?
- Reliable income – can they support the property every month?
- Personal references
“Cross-referencing” this information on the credit report to the application is very important.
- Does the credit report reflect the same addresses the applicant has listed? This is very important for ferreting out “additional residences”; the applicant might not want to show them due to rental history problems or recent evictions not yet reflected on the credit report.
- Does the credit report show any conflict on employment or income on the application?
- Does the credit report reflect the correct birth date and social security number? They could be using the information of another family member with a similar name.
- Does the credit report reflect bankruptcies or an eviction that the tenant has failed to disclose?
A credit report sometimes reflects the name of the employer. However, it does not usually show income details, their supervisor, or other important details of employment. Requiring “verifiable” written documentation for income, such as W-2’s, tax statements, and other sources from the applicant is the way to obtain this documentation, as well as calling for verbal verifications. In addition, a credit report will not show many other types of incomes, such as trusts, investments, welfare payments, or more.
Credit reports do not verify the ownership of a property or list details of rental history. Instead, county records verify if the applicant has listed the correct property owners. Verbal or written inquiries are necessary to learn how the applicant maintains the property and pays the rent. However, the credit report may show an unlawful detainer (eviction), which may lead to a more detailed investigation of the rental history. The application can also reveal discrepancies or warning signals. For example, the landlords and employers also show up as personal references or relatives. This bears careful investigation to ensure that they are not set up to give out false information.
One Tip, never accept the Free Credit Report from the Applicant in lieu of running a credit report through one of the credit reporting agencies. Why? The Free reports only show revolving credit, which is credit card history. They do not show court judgements such as evictions or bankruptcies, financial liens such as back child support, or taxes not paid.
The bottom line is that credit reports ARE important. The reports do reflect the applicant’s history of how they handle their credit, which is an important key in any application. However, they do not provide enough information necessary to determine if an individual is qualified to rent and maintain the property. Therefore, as your property management company, we use both a detailed application and a thorough tenant screening process to determine who will reside in your property.