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The Value of Tenant Screenings: Insights from Seattle Property Management

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The tenant screening process is a critical component of any successful real estate investment portfolio. Rental property owners should screen every tenant before offering them a lease contract to minimize risks to investments. Skipping a thorough review process can lead to bad tenants and lost income!

What do landlords need to know about screening potential residents? Check out these tips from a Seattle property management professional and protect your properties!

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Apply These Practices to Every Applicant

What goes into a quality tenant screening service? Landlords should include a background check, credit check, and a review of previous rental history. If you don't conduct screenings on your own, it's critical to choose a service that's compliant with the Fair Credit Reporting Act. Property owners are responsible for handling private data from potential tenants during and after the screening process—even if they never move into your rental.

Before conducting a review, get written approval from the application to proceed with the screening. Without it, landlords can't legally pull credit, employment, criminal, and other information for a thorough background check. Once you have permission, here's what to do next!

The Credit Check Process

If you're not sure how to check credit history, a Seattle property management professional starts the tenant screening process with a credit check. This critical screening element reveals information about the financial responsibility of the potential tenant.

A high credit score means they are likely to pay their bills on time, have a good handle on their debts, and be in good financial standing. A bad credit score could put them in a higher risk category. Any instances of bankruptcy or defaults can be a big red flag that a potential tenant can't (or won't) pay the rent. If you have two Seattle tenants to consider, the higher credit score is probably the more reliable choice.

Include income verification when reviewing credit history. New renters must be able to validate that they can afford the rent!

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Background or Criminal Checks

Reviewing a potential tenant's criminal history and background is also important when choosing a new resident. While landlords must avoid a blanket policy to deny all potential renters with any criminal record, it's critical to review this history and apply it to your approval process.

Applicants with a history of significant or violent crimes can be a risk for your property, other tenants, or neighbors. 

Prior Rental History 

Be sure to check into the prior rental history of every applicant. Look for issues, including:

  • Bad reviews from a prior landlord
  • A history of late rental payments (or defaults)
  • Property damage
  • Evictions or abandoning a property without notice

Landlords need to know if a tenant has ever broken a lease or left a property without paying the rent. This type of information can help you predict how they might behave or violate the rules in your rental. Talk with prior landlords during your screening process. Work with Seattle property management experts to review and apply prior rental history to your decision process!

Never Discriminate Against Any Potential Tenants

Landlords must never discriminate against any potential tenants during the screening process. From your criteria to the application and throughout the screening process, property owners must treat every applicant fairly and apply a balanced decision process to avoid discriminatory actions.

Discrimination against tenants (even unintentional actions) can lead to lawsuits and losing the ability to operate your rentals. No matter their racial background, gender, familial status, or abilities, a tenant has the same rights as any other to qualify for your rental property. A property manager in Seattle can help you develop a process that follows all Fair Housing Laws and helps you place the best quality tenants in your rentals!

Bring on a Property Management Professional

If tenant screening sounds like a lengthy or complicated process, it doesn't have to be! A property management professional knows how to apply best practices to your application review process to find quality residents while protecting your rentals quickly. 

A delay in the screening process could lead to discouraged applicants who choose another property or lost income while you wait for the tenant to pass your criteria. A property manager in Seattle with the right experience will have the screening process down to a science. They already understand how to perform screenings in compliance with the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA). A property manager also works quickly to expedite the review process and reduce vacancy times. 

Seattle Property Management Screens Every Potential Tenant

You now know the value of the tenant screening process! Partner with a Seattle property management professional to conduct thorough (and legal) applicant screenings to place quality residents and protect your investments. If that's the only help you need, choose a property management solution that offers specific services without requiring full-service management (or pricing) simply to help you find the best Seattle renters! 

RentWatch offers flexible solutions to help landlords manage property management costs and maximize income. If tenant screening isn't a smooth operation for you, let us help!

Learn more about critical landlord skills to manage successful rentals. Download our free handbook!


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