All kinds of people lease properties and sorting out who will be good for a property can be difficult. Screening prospective tenants isn't a snap judgment just before a lease signing: the real process of finding a good tenant is an ongoing process which begins the first time contact is made.
Finding a qualified resident for a property has many considerations and pitfalls. Here are a few of the things a San Diego property management company would always be sure to do:
Prepare your apartment
A well-maintained, well-staged property is a crucial part of your advertising. A property which looks and feels well cared for will appeal to residents who take good care of their homes. Avoid creating the perception that you don't care about your property: if that's the message you put across, the people who live there are unlikely to care about it, either.
Additionally, your property needs to support reasonable accommodations for disabled residents. These may include ramps for wheelchair access, flashing smoke detectors for deaf applicants, or braille signs for those with vision impairments. These accommodations may come up in the screening process, if any of your applicants have accessibility needs. Remember, it's not legal to deny housing based on disability. The duty is on you as the property owner to allow reasonable access under Fair Housing regulations.
Finally, it's a good idea to establish a relationship with a handyman who can be on-call to address issues which may arise suddenly: plumbing emergencies, HVAC failures, etc. As a landlord, you're responsible for keeping the property in good repair, so unless you want to potentially field calls at 2 in the morning, setting up an alternate way for residents to get their needs met is essential. A San Diego property management company will always have contractors or handymen on-call.
Advertise, and screen prospective tenants
Where you choose to advertise, and how you choose to advertise, affects the prospective residents you attract. Craigslist and other online listing services cast a wide net, and may draw interest from a wide variety of people. Having a paper advertisement up in a student union will draw a much different and more defined crowd, for example.
As you go into the tenant placement process, remember that while your goal is to match your property with the best residents for the space, you should be wary of discrimination. You may think, for example, that your property would be perfect for a newly-married couple planning to have a baby, and you can even use your advertising to point out a room which would make a wonderful nursery, but you cannot inquire about a person's familial status during the screening process. Other topics which cannot affect your decision include race or national origin, gender, disability, and religious affiliation.
While you avoid those questions, there are other topics which have a large impact on a prospective tenant's suitability. Property management companies always ask the following:
- Why is the person looking for new housing? If they're moving because of conflicts with a previous landlord, or because they're being evicted, this is a warning sign.
- When does the person want to move in? A short period of time may indicate poor planning skills, while a long period of time may indicate that they're not in the decision-making phase of their search yet.
- Can they offer references from previous landlords? Ideally you'll want more than one landlord's reference, not just the most current one.
- How many people will be living on the property?
- Will they submit to a credit check and criminal history check?
Never waive any part of the screening process for any applicant. Ensuring the same degree of rigor with all applicants protects you from accusations of unfair or preferential housing treatment, and it ensures that you're getting all the information you need to make an informed choice. One of the trade secrets of property management companies is that applicant checks are rigorous, and absolutely standardized.
Do your research – and not just on your applicant
If you're leasing out your property, there's a lot to take care of. Make sure you're familiar with all the legal requirements placed upon landlords in San Diego and surrounding areas, and make sure you're prepared for the logistical and pragmatic burdens upon landlords. Check out this free rental property checklist if you're looking for a guide.
A property management company like Property Advantage can make the process of leasing out your properties much easier, and much lower-risk. Download our free Property Management Checklist today to learn more about the process.