Running your rental business: Use established guidelines to clear potential tenants and avoid legal problems

Having an established list of criteria for each rental property/address will not only help you narrow your search for the perfect renter, but also will help protect you from legal issues from a prospective tenant who feels that you turned them down unlawfully.

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So how do you go about creating such a list, and what information should you include?

Start by locating your local city/regional/countrywide property codes.  Although cumbersome, they will tell you specifically the basics of what is or is not allowed.  It will be full of information that isn’t surprising and therefore not very helpful (you can’t discriminate, for example), but you will find information that may surprise you, like requirements for service animals or military transfers.

Next, do a search of nearby apartment complexes and the like.  They likely will have a form that they hand out to prospective renters that details qualifications.  Compare several and you will learn a lot!

Finally, think about what you consider important and that hasn’t already been covered.  For example, do you want to require that each applicant carry renters insurance?  How do you feel about pets?  Do you want a certain standard for each applicant’s credit score and history?  How will you handle someone with no credit history?  Or a bad history of missed payments or bankruptcies?  Will you require a background search that provides such information?  Be sure that these extra considerations don’t conflict with property codes and laws.  For example, you may not allow pets, but you also may be required to allow service animals.

Finally, if you do turn down a protective renter, be sure to note why, in case there is a challenge in the future.  For example, if you require a renter to provide proof of at least three times income over rent, and the person/family did not meet that threshold, be sure to note that.

 

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