At RE/MAX Gold in Charlotte, North Carolina and the surrounding areas, we do our tenant screening a little bit differently. We see screening as part of the due diligence process. We want to make sure we have the best qualified tenant in your Charlotte rental property so that they pay on time, take care of your property, and cause fewer issues.
Legal Considerations While Screening
With the screening process, there are laws that govern what we can screen and what we can disclose. Sometimes that’s a very fine line because we want our owners to know who is going to be renting their property but at the same time, we need to protect the privacy of the tenant. That’s why we have to follow the guidelines of the Fair Credit Act as well as the Fair Housing Act. We screen those folks who are 18 years or older and every adult living in the property. While we’re screening, we look at three specific things within the confines of the law:
- Credit history
- Eviction history
- Criminal record
If someone refuses to participate in our screening process, it’s a red flag and probably someone we do not want to consider renting to. People who have nothing to hide are happy to have a background check run. With a tenant screening we want to represent the interests of the owner but at the same time protect the privacy of the tenant. We want to make sure we have the right tenant identified and that the owner is comfortable with the tenant who is occupying their property.
Tenant Background and Credit Checks
At RE/MAX Gold we partner with Experian to do our background checks. We check for criminal, eviction, and credit history, and there is no cost to the owner for this. The tenant pays an application fee which covers the cost of getting the background check. If there is a co-signer involved, they too must fill out an application and be screened.
One of the things we look for when verifying income is that we get the last two paystubs from the tenant. We also want to verify that their income is at least three times the rental amount. If there is a significant other or a roommate, we combine the incomes.
Disclosing Screening Information to Owners
In order to protect the tenant’s privacy, there are things the owner may want to know but we cannot disclose due to the tenant’s rights. The Fair Credit Act is very specific about what we are allowed to disclose. If there are some things the owner wants to know, then we can get written permission from the tenant to disclose that information. Generally, we just let the owner know that they qualified by income, credit, and eviction background checks.
There is definitely a balance of information, and it’s our job to try and provide the owner with enough information to make a good decision. The things we cannot tell you are:
- The applicant’s name until they have been approved and are ready to sign the lease.
- Where they work.
- Information such as gender and age.
Again, we want to tell you as much as possible but we must protect the privacy of the tenant. Part of the reasons for these protections is to make sure there is no discrimination for nationality or race.
Approving the Tenant’s Application
Once the screening process is complete, we will formulate the information and review it. We will give the owner all the information we can along with a recommendation. The way that we do things at RE/MAX Gold is a little bit different. The owner has the final say on the tenant. We do not make that determination, as we want you to have the tenant that you are most comfortable with. Our job is to provide and offer options and information so you can make a good decision and also to stay within the confines of the law.
As a part of this process, we will also make you aware of the Fair Credit Act and fair housing laws. One of the things to keep in mind is that if an owner does reject a tenant, there has to be a good legal reason as to why, such as low credit scores or prior eviction or criminal history. We are required to give a written letter to them to explain why their application was rejected.
We also provide the telephone number of the credit bureau so the tenant can contact them directly about anything they have in question. Also remember that if the applicant meets the minimum requirements you are obligated to accept their application and approve them.
After the application has been approved, we will reach out to the tenant and ask for a reservation fee to hold the property, which is equal to one month’s rent. It then converts to the first month’s rent. We must have that in our possession before we take the property off the market and before we issue the lease.
We want a tenant who is going to take care of the property and pay their rent on time. We want to reduce the amount of risk, even though we understand that in a rental situation there are always risks involved. We do our best to try to minimize that by doing the screening up front and doing the best job possible securing the tenant.
This is all to help the owner make a good, educated decision. We believe that screening is very important and we want to make sure we maintain the requirements of the law. If you have any additional questions or concerns about tenant screening, please feel free to contact us at RE/MAX Gold.