As a rental property owner, you're very invested in finding a great renter who will help you keep your Atlanta rental property filled while also consistently paying rent and not damaging the property. However, it's important to be wary of falling for charismatic personalities or that easy rapport you develop early on with a rental applicant. Many of the pleasant rental applicants turn out to be great residents. But occasionally that charisma masks a spotty rental past. Renters who have struggled to make payments, who have allowed damage to befall the property, or who have had conflicts with their landlords are hoping that you won't screen your renters very well.
This is why property management companies take their in-person impressions into account and perform thorough renter screenings every time. Not only does a consistent renter screening program keep you from having as many problems with your tenants, but it also helps you avoid a discriminatory approach where you only do your due diligence for renters you don't immediately connect with. Making and sticking with a tenant screening protocol will reduce headaches for you and help you build a reputation as a fair property owner.
Choose Legally-Compliant Screening Companies That Screen Thoroughly
The first step is to use a tenant screening company that complies with the Fair Credit Reporting Act, focusing on searching databases and information that is legal for a landlord to access. Using a third-party checking service saves you time, usually, but they can also help you by omitting any information that could lead to discrimination. If you only want information about the past rental history and on-time payments from their credit check, as well as any criminal background check results that are relevant to you as a potential landlord, your company can help you only evaluate them based on those pieces of information.
Another major source of information is your renter's rental history before applying for your Atlanta rental property. If they can connect you to past landlords and you can perform reference checks, these calls are well worth your time. When you check in with past landlords, you may discover that they were straightforward to work with even when they had one or two late payments or that they caused damages to the property that wouldn't show up on other screening elements. These calls can help you see a glimpse of what your own relationship with that renter may look like.
Recognize and Avoid Bias and Discrimination
Very few people would intentionally discriminate and choose some tenants over others for reasons to do with their identity. What is more common are unconscious biases, how our lives and environments have shaped us to trust those who are more similar to us and be less trusting of those who are different from us.
While we cannot avoid all unconscious bias - our brains form new patterns all the time, so some bias occurs - we can create processes that avoid discrimination. One way that people avoid bias, for instance, would be to ask that the names be removed or redacted from background check and credit check results. If you'd be tempted to evaluate the information differently when you know which results pertain to which applicant, you might prefer not to see those names as you make your decision.
Even if you don't do something like removing names, you can create rubrics or a checklist for what matters to you most: if you would consider past late payments on bills as a red flag, you want to make sure you see it as a red flag for all applicants, not just those who already gave you pause. Keeping the same process for all candidates can help you avoid making decisions purely based on gut instinct. In contrast, gut instincts can sometimes lead us well. In cases where discrimination is possible, it's smart to rely on an equitable process.
Property Managers Understand and Are Experts at Screening
Property managers screen dozens, if not hundreds, of tenants each year, and they have seen enough of the circumstances that lead to rental trouble that they have a good understanding of what to look for. They've narrowed down what they look for so that they don't discriminate but instead focus on information that is most relevant to being a strong rental candidate.
If you worry that the screening process will take too much time or that you could be prone to biases that could lead you astray, having your property manager screen your renters is a great idea. They have a strong motivation to find you a great tenant who will be consistent and easy to work with, all while potentially staying in the property long-term. If you haven't considered property management before, it's a great time to schedule a free consultation to get to know what we can do for your Atlanta rental property. You can also download our tenant screening checklist to start your own process.