When a prospective tenant is interested in applying for a rental with WILMOTH, they are requested to complete a thorough background screening. If the potential applicant is fearful they may not be approved, and lose the cost of the application fee, we gladly describe our qualification standards. It is surprising how many people will go ahead with an application, and then ask very blunt questions that will result in enough clues to make a rejection likely.
The primary goals when considering a party applying for a rental are to find people will:
- Pay regularly on time for the occupancy
- Not create damages above and beyond normal wear and tear on the property
How a potential renter handles the application process can tell much about:
- How they see themselves in the world
- What they believe may be owed to them
- How they expect to be treated
A tenant is our customer and we want them to be happy. An applicant is not our customer…yet. A property manager’s duty is to the owner of the rental. As a result there are some things that an application by itself will not tell you about a potential new tenant.
I am pretty sure a lot of applicants find that some landlords are just looking for a tenant who can fog glass. So when an applicant is exposed to a thorough process they are caught off guard nor prepared. Seems like I continue to be amazed, and surprised, by some of the stupid things applicants will say when applying for a home.
“I Feel That Is An Unnecessary Intrusion Into My Privacy.”
One of the common delays in completing our screening sometimes occurs in obtaining verification from employers. Last week I received a phone message from an applicant who was frustrated that she had not received a response to her application since making it five business days ago. I quickly told her that the listed employer had not responded to the income verification questions. In this situation, one option is to determine an applicant’s employment status and income by requesting copies of pay stubs and tax statements. When this option was suggested, the applicant responded that they would not provide the requested information due to the request being an “unnecessary intrusion into my privacy.”
Subsequently, I responded “Okay, fine I will not approve your application and we can both move forward!”
The “Everything Is Wrong With The Landlord” Applicant
One of my favorite questions to explore with potential applicants is “why are you looking to move.” Some of the answers we receive provide great insight for whether or not to encourage someone to apply.
I have had potential applicants state “Our management company has a ridiculous late fee policy and it is costing us an arm and leg…what is yours?”
Or, been directed that “you cannot contact our landlord because our lease does not end for another four months and they do not know we are moving.”
Thank you very much for sharing.
“We Need A Better Environment For Our Dog”
A lot of people own pets. Therefore, you really can’t own rentals and not anticipate that your tenants will want to own a pet. There are many types of pets just like there are many kinds of pet owners. I once was told by somebody applying for a rental that “we need a better environment for our dog.” I thought maybe that meant that they needed a fenced yard. Upon contacting the current landlord we learned the problem was not a fenced yard. It was that the tenant left the dog outside all the time and the neighbors had successfully had the tenants (and property owner) cited for noise violations. A better environment for their dog meant another home where the dog howling all night long was acceptable.
You really need to read between the lines of some of these statements.
“I Need To Immediately Move”
“I think I have a tenant for James St.” was the message I received one morning from a showing agent.
“Great” I said. ” I will watch for their application.”
The agent then said, “Well, they do not want to pay for the application unless they can immediately move some possessions into the garage for storage. They need to do that immediately and will pay us for allowing them to do so.”
I stared and then asked “do you think this is a good idea?”
“No, not really but the home has been on the market a few weeks and it sounds like a good way to get somebody committed.”
I almost said it was a good way “to get somebody committed and that person would be me”, but I restrained myself.
You just can’t have this much empathy toward applicants and tenants. We want them to be our customers, but we are not in a transactional relationship. As a result, listen to what they tell you and avoid headaches down the road. Applicants, particularly ones currently without housing, likely have a very telling story that you need to learn more about.
“My Boyfriend Will Pay The Rent But He Can’t Go On The Lease Because His Wife Might Find Out”
Yep, it really happened. The applicant had no income. There is a term for this relationship. So call it whatever you want. I call it stupid.
In conclusion, talk to parties interested in applying for a rental before you get in to deep with them. Don’t be so desperate for a tenant that you overlook red flag comments. Tenants applying for a rental will often disclose many important things that a landlord needs to know. So, if it is up to you to make a decision on an application, listen and don’t be in a hurry. Consider if maybe you have heard enough you can save everyone a lot of potential headaches and cost before the process even starts.