Lessee Screening 101

A contract of lease is an agreement between a lessor/landlord and the lessee/tenant whereby the former agrees to rent out his or her property for a fee and subject to a contract of lease while the latter agrees to pay regular amounts as rent for the continued use of the same property for a specific period of time. Finding the perfect tenant is not what this article is after, rather this article will endeavor to provide a lessor with enough information and to lower the risk of renting out property to a deadbeat.

Credit Check for Landlords: Credit Inquiry Defined

A landlord credit check is a request made by a person interested about the credit report and rating of another person (natural or juridical) for a specific legal purpose and with a written authorization to do so. Remember, not just anyone can request a landlord credit check from credit reporting agencies. The request must be accompanied by a written authorization and the person or entity requesting has to state the purpose for the credit inquiry as a tenant credit check. The reason for this is because the law limits credit inquiries to protect the financial information of the natural or juridical person.

Credit Check for Landlords: Credit Reporting Agencies

These are private corporations operated for a profit. There are three or four major credit reporting agencies in the United States. The important thing to remember is that while it is safe to request a credit report and credit score from one credit reporting agency, it would be wise to get 2 or 3 different reports from the major reporting agencies. This is because each credit report may not contain the same information and may not contain the same forms.

Credit Check for Landlords: The Credit Score

A credit score is the numerical equivalent of a natural or juridical person as a risk. In theory the higher the credit score the lower the risk of default and the lower the credit score the higher the risk of default. There is no hard and fast rule here however most lessors look for the:

  1. Federal and state median credit score: At the very least a tenant should be within the median credit score.
  2. Previous lease defaults: Defaults on previous leases is indicative of a propensity to not pay rent on time.
  3. Total amount of indebtedness: This shows the landlord if the potential lessee still has the capacity to pay the rent.

Remember, the lower the score the lower the bargaining power of the tenant. This also means the landlord is justified in charging more rent per month or on requiring a security deposit and advance deposit. The landlord should also insist on post-dated checks for the entire length of the contract because these allow the landlord to strictly enforce payment under threat of litigation.

Last Minute Tips

Aside from the landlord credit check, a landlord also has other means by which to get a better picture of a potential tenant. These other methods comprise of a more extensive inquiry of the potential tenant. These inquiries are easily available online for a fee and may comprise of the following:

  1. Criminal record check
  2. Pending medical collection check
  3. Employment summary check
  4. Alias check
  5. Past address history check

Help! I Have To Evict My Nephew!

The eviction of a friend or relative is not easy to do. It has to be one of the most difficult lawsuits, if not the most emotionally draining, of all types of evictions. You may be one of the lucky ones who can rent to a friend or relative with no side effects. Still one day, there may come a time when you have to look your friend or family member in the eyes, and ask him or her to leave your apartment.

In the eviction of a relative stranger, even a long-term tenant, the process isn’t personal, just business. The tenant can’t pay the rent, so he has to leave. It’s the end of an association with more or less minimal emotional ties between the tenant and the landlord.

Evicting a friend or relative is one in which sides may be chosen, and lines drawn in the sand. Once the eviction notice has been delivered, do not expect many friends or allies to come to your aid. Depending upon the circumstances of the eviction, you can expect to have your life made miserable by anyone impacted by your decision.

This is because the expectations of a friend or relation are much higher than that of a stranger. If there is a tenancy problem, the expectation is that you will treat the tenant more as a friend or relative than as a financial investment problem. You will be asked to accept less than you normally would for rent arrears, to wait longer for your rent, and to accept behaviors that you would not normally tolerate.

For example, let’s say you need to raise the rent. A rent increase could be perceived as a betrayal of your friendship. Your aunt could think you are taking advantage of her. It doesn’t make sense, but when money is concerned, all bets are off. As far as a friend or relative is concerned, you are in his or her pocket. A belief that you are soaking your tenant for more money that you ‘don’t really need’ could cause your family member to not pay the increase.

Be clear and resolved about why the eviction must take place. Have all of your written documentation in place. Check all of your paperwork, rent cards, letters of warning etc. before you send your notice to quit. Make sure you have a leg to stand on before starting the eviction case. Conduct a due diligence of your property and the legal case.

Hard feelings will sometimes come with the rental and eviction territory. Do not expect to be able to discuss the case calmly with the offended tenant. Do not expect a cool head to prevail over your eviction action. If you evict your nephew, expect your sister or brother to be totally ticked off at you. Your friend may think you are a jerk for evicting her because she parties loudly every weekend, disturbing your other tenants. Your aunt may not come to your aid when your niece does not pay the rent.

When blood is evicting blood, much more blood could be shed before the battle is over. Few people want to be in the middle of a turf war. You may find yourself isolated and alone during the eviction process until the dust has settled. This is the reason why most landlords refuse to rent to a friend or family member. It is preferred to have only one relationship, than to confuse the personal relationship by adding a legal one.

How can you ease the pain of evicting a friend, relative, or even the relative of a friend? It could depend on how the person was moved in. Were you doing your friend “a favor” by renting your apartment to him or her? Did your cousin have to complete a rental application like everyone else? Did you verify all references, employment information, credit check, former landlord information, etc.? Does the tenant have a lease?

Why is this important? Having everyone go through an application process regardless of their status with you establishes the ground rules from Day One. Without it, the tenant could feel that he or she was taken in as a friend, and then treated otherwise when things got tough. It helps to set up the lines of separation between the friendship and the tenancy.

So, what is the best way to evict a friend or relative? Here are some tips:

· First, do not take shortcuts during the legal process. In fact, do everything strictly by the book. A wounded friend or relative who knows your personal business becomes a worthy adversary in a legal case. He or she will use whatever information is available to fight you tooth and nail.

· The jury is still out as to whether or not you should serve the initial notice of lease termination personally, or use a constable. The friend or your sister will feel the sting of you starting legal action just as shocking no matter how the news is given.

· Exercise the same professional manner in dealing with the loved one as you would with a stranger. Try to keep your emotions out of the situation. Avoid discussing the case at length with your now adversarial tenant. The less said, the less information that can be used against you in court.

· Put any rent arrears payment plans in writing. Continue the eviction case, and present the payment plan to the judge. Have the judge enter the payment plan in the court decision. Then, if the plan is broken, it is broken with the court, not you. Your friend or cousin will be less likely to violate a court agreement.

· Some landlords hire an attorney to process their eviction cases specifically against a friend or relative. When your best friend or nephew calls you about the eviction notice, refer all comments and questions to the attorney. Resist the temptation to explain why you started the action. With an attorney, you are taken out of the middle position. Let the lawyer earn the fee by listening to the anger, frustration and feelings of betrayal by the friend or relative.

· If you need to take legal action against a friend or relative who is your tenant, do it. Do not be intimidated by their personal association with you. Your real estate is a business investment. If you remember this during the process, you will be able to separate the two relationships, that of friend or family member who is also your tenant.

Rental Application Form – Do Not Forget This Important Form

Choosing the right tenant for your home can be a very important part of the rental process, choose the right tenant and your rental experience can be an easy and profitable one. Choose the wrong tenant however and it can end up being a nightmare such as you never believed possible. An important element in screening your tenants is to have a complete and thorough rental application form, this form is used to screen your applicants and ensure that you will get the best tenant for your property.

Getting a rental application is easy; however it can be hard to know what is the best way to go about getting this important form. There are millions of results when you search on the Internet for it, and you can buy them in office supply stores or you can make up your own if you have the time and the Knowledge to do so. The trick is to have a good idea of what you want before you go looking and to be willing to spend a bit of time searching through the various forms.

It is also important to keep in mind that you will likely need to do some changes to any form that you down load, this is part of what makes it a much better option to get your rental application online. You cannot edit a form that you buy in the store, like you can a form that you download offer of the Internet. This way the form is mostly complete with all of the information you will need and you only need to add the extra things that you think your form will need.

Rental applications vary a quite a bit, some people are pretty relaxed about what they want for information; whereas others want to do a credit check and want financial references. Whatever way that you choose to do your form you should be able to find a form that has all the basic information that you are looking for on it. You may wish to search for some samples of this form too so that you can get some ideas of what can be put on the form before you choose the one you want.

A rental application form is a good way to ensure that the person that is renting your home is responsible and will take good care of your property as well as pay the rent on time every month. Make sure that you get a properly crafted form and you will find that you have less troubles down the road with your tenants.

Leasing-Planning for First-time Apartment Rental Expenses

Either you are downsizing, relocating to another city or just ready to move out of your parent’s home and you’ve realized that saving solely for the apartment deposit and credit check fee isn’t going to allow you to rent that trendy apartment you have been eyeing online. That’s usually because first time renters have concentrated solely on the apartment rental expense and do not realize that there are many first-time costs they haven’t calculated in their apartment search budget. While some items may vary, depending on the city and regional area you have chosen, the following worksheet lists some of the most common up-front costs.

Up-Front Expenses

    Credit Check fee for apartment application $_____

    Deposit for apartment $_____

    Deposit for pets (if any) $_____

    Deposit for electric service $_____

    Deposit for gas service $_____

    Deposit for telephone service $_____

    Installation fee for cable TV or internet service $_____

    First month’s rent on apartment $_____

    Moving Costs $_____

    Total Up-front Expenses $_____

While these up-front costs will cover getting you into the apartment, you will need to also come up with some money to equip your apartment with the furniture, household items and food staples that will make living in your new place possible–especially if the apartment is unfurnished. Sleeping on the floor, eating fast food on paper plates and having no place to sit will get old very fast!

To reduce your expenses, you might want to consider buying used furniture at thrift stores or yard sales or maybe getting a few furniture donations from relatives. If you have the financial resources, then estimate what you will be spending on furniture for each room.

The following worksheet, will help calculate your furnishing costs.

Move-In Expenses

    Furniture for 1 or 2 bedroom apartment $______

    Small kitchen appliances (blender,microwave, etc.) $______

    Dishes, pots and pans, flatware $______

    Household items (bedspread, towels, rugs) $______

    Kitchen paper goods and toiletries $______

    Cleaning supplies (mop, broom, household cleaners) $______

    Food (including first-time staples & condiments) $______

    Total Move-in Expenses $______

You will need to add both totals to get a clear picture of what your expenses will be. Some of those expenses can be spread out over a few months; however, you should be aware of what to expect. If you spend the time planning ahead, it will pay off with a much more realistic picture of what your budget can handle, no “sticker shock” worries and enjoying your new place.

The Ideal Rent to Own

As mortgage laws get tighter and people are finding it harder and harder to qualify for their own mortgages today, rent to own is fast becoming an option that many people are turning to.

BUT what makes a great rent to own tenant-buyer or rent to own program?

Truthfully, the best and most successful rent to own tenant-buyer is someone that already has a homeowner mindset.

Young, old, single, married, families, divorced, self-employed or new to the country. It doesn’t matter which category you fall in to, rent to own could be a good option for you if you have not been able to secure a traditional mortgage as a result of credit challenges or lack of down payment. Rent to own will give you the opportunity to choose your own home, the time to repair your credit and the discipline to build your down payment while you build equity in the property BUT it isn’t a slam-dunk for everyone. Even though rent to own can work for many types of situation, here are the mindsets of the people that will succeed in a rent to own:

1. Eager and motivated to be a homeowner because they understand that real estate is one of the best ways to begin building their wealth

2. Determined to repair any credit issues that they have to deal with

3. Understands the benefits of equity appreciation

4. Takes pride in maintaining and upkeep of their home

5. Is tired of spending hard earned money on rent which only makes their landlord rich

Even with the right mindset (which is half the battle), you still need to align yourself with the right rent to own program or model. There are many options out there (Tenant first where you select your home, property first where you select a home from a list of available homes, no-money down etc.) so the best advice is to always do your due diligence on the people or company offering the rent to own and on the rent to own programs available. This is key. A great rent to own program can be defined by many things and is likely to be subjective but for me, here are some of the things you should be looking for:

1. A program where you are supported on your credit repair efforts. Two or more heads are always better than one. Even having someone you trust to bounce ideas off of or have questions answered sometimes makes the difference.

2. A program where enough of the monthly payment goes towards your down payment or option credit so that you can increase your down payment to 5% or even better, 10%.

3. You should be selecting your own home. Even though it is a “home” for your family, it should fit your needs and budget… and you should LOVE it. How likely are you to succeed if you don’t enjoy being there or being in the neighbourhood.

4. Transparency. Are all the numbers provided to you up front? Avoid surprises later by ensuring that you agree on the numbers before you commit to the property.

5. Homeowner feeling. Don’t enter into a program where you are going to be “landlorded”. One of the best things about rent to own is that you have the freedom to update the property and make it your own. You shouldn’t be micro-managed around being a homeowner.