A. Do a thorough Background Check for Potential Tenants
1. Qualifying Questions
As a property owner, you should have a list of qualifying questions that you ask every prospective tenant before they even view the property. These questions can give you a basic understanding of the tenant’s situation.
These questions will not only allow you to determine if a tenant is qualified to rent your property, but will serve as a comparison to what the tenant actually fills out on the rental application, if they get to that point. In addition, if a prospective tenant calls again in the future, you will be able to compare their current information to the former information that you have on hand. Make sure you use the same qualifying standards for all potential tenants.
2. Stay away from Discriminatory Types of Questions
Be careful not to ask questions that could be interpreted as discrimination under the Federal Fair Housing Law and California’s Fair Housing Law may otherwise be considered discriminatory such asking whether a prospective tenant has ever been arrested.
The Federal Fair Housing Act protects seven classes: race, color, religion, sex, national origin, disability and familial status. In addition, California has additional protected classes including marital status, sexual orientation, ancestry, age, source of income and arbitrary personal characteristics.
3. Credit Checks and Employment Verification
Once a tenant passes the preliminary screening, then it is recommended that you conduct credit checks and employment verification. Keep copies for your file of your investigation for both accepted and rejected tenants.
B. Prospective Tenant Selection- Red Flags
Red flags for potential tenants include:
- Nervousness about the credit check
- Poor credit and/or bankruptcy
- History of evictions
- Criminal history
- Lies on the rental application
- Attempt to negotiate the amount of the security deposit
- They want to make payments for the security deposit and first month of rent.
- Frequently moving or changing jobs
- Complaints about prior landlords.
C. Hire an Attorney to draft a Strong Rental Agreement or Lease
If you are considering entering into a commercial or residential lease with a prospective tenant, it is important to speak with a knowledgeable attorney to help ensure your interests are protected. A well-crafted lease agreement is essential for creating a strong and lasting relationship between a landlord and a tenant and preventing expensive disputes. If you invest upfront in a solid lease, you may be able to reduce the likelihood of a dispute with your tenant during the lease term. It is far more cost effective to hire an attorney to draft a lease rather to have an attorney file lawsuit or defend you in a legal action.
D. Record the Condition of the Premises
It is crucial to thoroughly document the condition of the premises before the tenants move in and immediately after the tenant vacates. This documentation will serve as evidence of the property condition to support deductions from the security deposit as well as other issues that may arise.
We can help you protect you and your property. Call us at (925) 463-9000 or send an email.
Lisa Wills of the Law Offices of Lisa D. Wills is an experienced Landlord Tenant attorney in Pleasanton, San Ramon, Livermore and Danville CA helping Commercial and Residential Landlords protect themselves. Please contact Lisa Wills by email at the Law Offices of Lisa D. Wills or call us at (925) 463-9000.