As a Residential Property management company in Los Angeles, we have screened thousands of prospective tenant applications and have had less than a 1% eviction rate. What is the secret to our success? Property management companies typically run tenant screenings with 3 main criteria which are:
1. Credit scores
3. Criminal and Eviction History
Our credit score threshold is 650. I understand some landlords may look for higher scores but 650 is acceptable for most management companies. There are some students with no credit history. We considered no credit history is better than bad credit!
The rule of thumb is the prospective tenant must earn 3 times the amount of income vs rent. However, in some expensive neighborhoods or cities like Los Angeles and etc, 2.5 times the amount of income vs rent may be acceptable.
Criminal and Eviction History
We only look for eviction and felony charges. Most misdemeanors are acceptable unless it relates to violent elements such as domestic violence or battery.
If the prospective tenant passed all 3 criteria. The chances of you having a tenant paying rent on time are a lot higher than average. If they failed to pass 1 of the 3 criteria but you feel that they will make a good tenant. You can increase the security deposit or ask for a guarantor that lives in the same state as the rental property to co-sign. You can ask for stricter criteria for the co-signers such as 700+ credit scores and 5 times the amount of income vs rent.
How to verify landlord’s references
Most management companies have the ability to perform a title search on the previous and current landlord but the landlord’s verification is always a tricky part of the screening process. Think if you have a tenant you want to get rid of and another landlord called you that he or she wants to take the tenant away. Would you be more inclined to yes or no? We have found that the landlord’s verification is always 50/50 so you might have to go with the gut about trusting the current landlord.
How to verify employment
During the employment verification process If you have a prospective tenant working at a big Corporate America, it can take up to 3-10 days to get an answer, you will probably lose the tenant by then. When screening with smaller companies, you must be extra diligent in making sure you are contacting the correct people because the tenant can also give a phone number of a friend pretending to be a “supervisor” at the job, so it’s best to always do independent research to find a company directory if available. For business owners or independent contractors, the tax returns are usually lower than what they claimed on the application.
Alternatively, we recommend you do due diligence on your own such as adding up deposits from bank statements to see if they match with what is stated on the application, looking up on the Linkedin profile, searching for the tenant in the company’s directory, etc.
After conducting the due diligence, the property management company will use the information gathered to make a decision on whether to approve or deny the tenant’s application to rent the property. Please be advised that if you own a multi-family building, you will need to have the same set of criteria for everyone to comply with Fair Housing. For example, you cannot ask for a 650 FICO score from one tenant and 700 for the other. It is important to keep detailed records of the screening process and document everything for the reasons for approval or denial. You can now run tenant screening like a pro!
Author: Jesse Sasomsup is the President of Earnest Homes, one of the most highly-rated property management companies in Los Angeles.