Life as a rental property owner can be either sweet or sour and it usually starts with the people who occupy your property. When we are renting a property it is always exciting to be told by a potential tenant that they wish to complete an application for rent. The application process is a most important step to determining whether to enter a lease with a potential tenant.
One of the best ways to prevent evictions is to not enter into a lease with the wrong tenant. We keep our eviction rates very low by thoroughly reviewing background of all applicants. Sadly, people and their behaviors usually do not change. Some people have set-backs. When a set-back makes sense, it usually shows in one part of the tenant screening but not in the others. For instance, a divorce might show in poor credit, but employment screening and past landlord history should not be affected. Or medical issues can result in charge offs and judgments, but again not so much on the employment and residence eviction checks.
We have been interviewed and cleared by a national company to be eligible to obtain the type of detailed tenant screening information that allows us to rent your property to the best tenants. Access to this detailed information is one of the things you lose when not selecting a professional property management company to handle your leases.
The process of completing an application begins at ApplyWithWilmoth.com. The application requests background information on an applicant, and also asks if they smoke, have children, pets, aquariums, water beds, previous bankruptcy, evictions or criminal history. The applicant’s ability to discuss this information needs to agree with what our screening discovers. If not, we know there is a problem.
The screening process consists of:
- Employment and income verification
- Previous rental history verification (late pays, disturbances, balances)
- Search of the national eviction databases to see if any court cases have been filed previously against the applicants
- FICO Credit scores and credit report
- Criminal background on state and county levels of previous residence
We require a background check for each and every adult (18 and older) resident of a property. So, a married couple with a 19 year-old son living with them will require three checks completed. I hear all the time the complaint that the 19 year-old son is a student and should not need to have the check completed. Unfortunately, an alleged sex offender may also be a student. We need to know that and this is the best way to discover important facts about the applicants.
The cost to the tenant is $50 individually or $75 for a married couple. So, applications are received from serious candidates, eliminating time spent on those who know they likely will not qualify. Prior to an applicant spending the fee, we encourage them to contact us if they are concerned about how an event in their background might affect the outcome. In this way, we try to avoid just taking applications and funds from those who will not be approved.
We also do this on the applicant’s dime so we know they are serious. If a potential tenant has difficulty paying this application fee, it is good we learned that before entering a contract! We do encourage potential applicants to review with us their unique circumstances to avoid spending these fees with no chance of approval.
It takes a few days to get back all of the information as actual phone calls are placed to employers and landlords. So, the applicant can’t expect an automatic approval or rejection. We follow an underwriting process for each and every application.
After underwriting an applicant from a completed report, and we are ready to recommend approval, the final step is a review with the property owner. Privacy guidelines do not allow us to provide owners a copy of the screening, or even specific details, but we can share enough information to allow the owner to confirm our recommendation.
This thorough screening system seriously reduces the amount of evictions we file to under 5% of all residents. As a member of several industry organizations the statistics will verify that this is way below the average. Many owners move to WILMOTH Group because of their past experiences with bad tenant selection. This information allows us to make better decisions about applications. We usually can assess if the applicant has simply experienced a bump in the road called life, or has a problem with character and/or capacity for payment.
Bumps in the road may very well lead to a great applicant while the character and capacity issues are best to be avoided.