I remember the morning of Sept. 11, 2001, as if it were yesterday. I believe that to be true for most of us. Things changed in our country after 9/11, from security checks at airports to the questions banks asked of us when we opened new accounts, to the information required to apply for a loan. The residential leasing world also came under question as some of the known terrorists were tenants, renting in our state.
The purpose of this article is not to engage in political debate about the state of the world, but to remind all landlords that they need to know their tenants! Unfortunately, there are ruthless and corrupt people everywhere looking to lease property. In today’s world, potential renters could be terrorists, drug dealers, human traffickers or hardened criminals. Here are some ways landlords can get to know their tenants:
- Prior to leasing, have all applicants fill out the exact same application. The quality of the application is sometimes more important than the quality of the lease.
- Capture government issued identification. If something appears to be suspicious, contact law enforcement.
- Call all listed references and check on employment.
- Run a credit report, public report and a criminal background check.
- After leasing, inspect your property on a regular basis.
It is very important that landlords know all laws in regards to leasing, especially Fair Housing requirements. A good rule of thumb is to simply treat all applicants and tenants equally! If you do not understand Fair Housing or any other law, contact an attorney and educate yourself. Fair Housing penalties are very severe. Of course, it is always a good idea to hire a property manager to provide leasing services. A good, professional property manager will be current on Fair Housing laws, process applicants consistently by reviewing all reports and background checks, and will increase the landlord’s odds of placing great tenants in their property.