What are some questions to avoid during tenant screening?
We understand that as a homeowner, you want to find the ideal tenant for your home and that means using a stringent tenant screening process to screen every applicant that shows interest in your property. When a homeowner or property manager meets a potential tenant, there might be the curiosity to learn more about the individual or family and their potential for being a long-term tenant or how they might care for your property.
In the case of California Leasing, our expert showing agent will meet a tenant and begin the initial screening process to ensure that the property is an appropriate fit for the tenant before they begin the application process. However, we do offer experienced property owners the benefit of our world-class marketing to find a tenant, and they handle the rest of the process. During this process, our expert team is always available to offer the benefit of our years of experience and professional credentials. With that being said, we often are asked by property owners if there are certain items that can or cannot include during the screening process, and we’ve created a list that could be helpful to potential investors that are currently screening tenants.
1. What country were you born?
While you might simply be attempting to make small talk during a tenant screening with your potential renter, it could very well be taken out of context. Thanks to the Federal Fair Housing Laws, property managers, and landlords cannot discriminate against a person based on their national origin or race, and unless a tenant offers up their place of birth during a conversation, these questions should not be included in any line of questioning to vet a tenant.
2. Have you ever been arrested?
This of all questions is something you want to know, however, it’s not something you should ask. Running a full background check on potential tenants will allow you to focus on convictions when making your decision rather than arrests which could be inconsequential. It’s important to remember that once you have the information about someone’s criminal background it is up to your discretion, simply remember you cannon ask questions about the history in order to come to a decision.
3. Are you assisted by or do you have a service animal?
While you do have every right as a landlord or property manager to know what or who will be residing in your home, this question actually violates the law. It’s up to your discretion to decide if the property you own or manage will allow pets, however, service and comfort animals are a whole different set of regulations that you need to be aware of and understand. Check out our previous blog post on the matter.
4. Do you have any children, and if so how many and how old are they?
This might be an inquiry you make simply to get to know someone better in a day-to-day conversation, however, as a NARPM certified property manager, our team knows that this one is off-limits. Federal Fair Housing Laws, prohibit discriminating against tenants due to their familial situation. Again, keep in mind that this is something that should be included in a tenant’s application, in the section of who will be living in the property. However, children or the potential for them is not a valid reason to deny someone tenancy.
Tenant screening can be a tenuous process. Often times we come across property owners who have skipped important portions of the process to fill vacancies quickly and find out the hard way, why it is important to follow a stringent process that aligns with the laws and regulations in your state. Before you start with any tenant screening, it’s important to create a checklist that ensures you follow the necessary steps to find the ideal resident for your investment property.
Working with hundreds of properties annually, California Leasing was founded by investors who have experienced every possible scenario and through that experience crafted a variety of programming for every type of owner. The tenant screening process is the most integral portion of the rental process and cutting corners simply isn’t okay when it comes to quality transactions. If you are a property owner looking for guidance in your next tenant screening, please don’t hesitate to be in touch with us, 661-294-8500.