Today, more than they have at any point in the past fifty years, Americans are renting housing rather than purchasing real estate. For landlords, this is amazing. After all, who doesn’t like to see their business grow? But it can also cause for lots of stress if the wrong questions are asked during tenant screening.
If you’re a landlord, you probably have questions about what is and isn’t appropriate to say when doing a rental background check. Can you ask about religion? Pets? Disabilities? You probably aren’t even sure where to start.
We’re here to give you some helpful tips to let you know what to say- and avoid saying- to avoid lawsuits when choosing tenants.
1. Find Out Tenant’s Needs
A landlord should always first ask why the tenant wants to move into their building. It’s important to find out the things that are drawing them to you. Do they like the building? The area?
Knowing this can help you to understand more about the tenant without asking any inappropriate questions. Take note, though, that you shouldn’t ask them for their life story. That’s awkward at best, but can break legal privacy protections at worst.
2. Economics In Landlord Background Checks
It’s going to be awkward to ask someone how much money they make, but it needs to be done. You need to protect yourself as a landlord and make sure you’re going to be consistently paid for leasing out your building.
Instead of just coming out and asking, though, it might be better for you to run a background and credit check on potential tenants. This will keep a few feet between you and the tenant in figuring out economic issues.
If you get the information based on these checks, you’re less likely to get yourself into a sticky situation by asking the wrong questions.
3. Identities And Tenant Screening
One of the biggest no-no’s in tenant screening is asking about a person’s identity. If it’s about their race, gender, sexual orientation, religion, or political views, it’s their business, not yours.
This is one of the biggest pitfalls that a lot of landlords fall into. If it’s important for you to know any of these things, which it probably isn’t, you’re going to just have to feel the tenant out on your own. You can’t press too hard without violating privacy laws.
Along with this comes commenting on aspects of someone’s identity. Asking someone about their service dog or commenting on their same-sex relationship is never okay, even if the comment is positive. It’s best just to stay away from these subjects altogether.
4. Getting Deposits And Rent
Once you decide that a tenant is right for you, you’re going to want to make sure they can pay you the first month’s rent and security deposit before moving in. This will be a protection for you more than anything- you don’t want to be put in a situation where you aren’t being paid.
Now that you know what you need to about protecting people’s privacy during tenant screening, check out this printable lease agreement to get started with the next steps of finding a tenant.
Now get out there and ask the right questions!