E-Renter Tenant Screening News

Top 5 Bad Tenant Warning Signs

December 5th, 2014

Warning: Bad Tenant Approaching

In addition to a thorough background and credit check, choosing the right tenant involves acute observation during the interview process and following gut instinct.  There are numerous “tells” you can watch for that will clue you in to possible issues before you extend an offer to rent.  Here are just five potential red flags to consider:

  1. Tardiness and Excuses
    If an applicant is late to their viewing appointment and their excuse seems uncaring or made up, this may indicate a lack of ability to take responsibility for their mistakes.  If excuses come easily to them, be prepared to face the same tactic if damage to your property occurs, or if you call them out on not having cleaned up their unit when they move out.  This may also be a sign that they are totally unaware of how their actions are affecting others – not necessarily the attitude you want from someone that you expect to take care of your rental while they are living in it.  It is inevitable people will make mistakes, but how they handle them can tell you a lot about their character.
  2. Over-Questioning the Background/Credit Check
    Be very wary of individuals who make grandiose statements about a background check or credit check being a “sham” or a “lie.”  A tenant has every right to question a particular item on their report, asks for a copy of the report, or request time to talk to the screening company – those are signs that the tenant is engaged, not problematic.  However, if they are trying to toss out the entire report as invalid, or are spending a lot of time telling you that background checks are meaningless or made up, chances are that they are actually trying to cover something up.  Keep in mind that responsible tenants know they need to be screened, and if there’s a problem, they will want to work quickly to resolve it, rather than wasting time complaining.
  3. Frequent Moves
    Unless your tenant is in the military, or has a steady job that frequently requires them to change location, a tenant that moves frequently could be a major red flag.  It may indicate either a problem paying rent or a disregard for lease terms (early termination).  In either event, it could mean extra time and expense for you.  Asking for the length of time they’ve lived at each previous address can help you determine in advance if an applicant is a higher risk.
  4. Short Timeline
    An applicant that is in a rush may be a sign that they need to secure a new place before dealing with a problem with their current landlord.  The cause for their haste could be something like major damage to the rental unit, attempting to sneak out of a lease early without paying, or even a pending eviction.  If you can’t corroborate their reason for needing to rent immediately, be cautious.  Responsible tenants know when their lease expires and they plan well in advance by searching early.
  5. Advanced Payments
    Unless you have specifically requested they do so, be skeptical of applicants who offer you money to fast-track or bypass part or all of the application process.  Although it may initially be appealing to choose a tenant with cash in hand, they may be trying to distract you from looking in detail at their application.  They may have bad credit or bad references.  Trust in your screening process, and don’t bypass any portion of it just for some extra up-front cash.  Remember, you are looking for someone that is calm and consistent over a long period of time, not someone flashy at the beginning.

Keep an eye out for these behaviors as you take in applications, be sure to properly screen your tenant, and always trust your gut to select tenants that will pay their rent consistently and take care of your unit responsibly.

California: New Tenant Parking Laws

November 19th, 2014


New laws in California signed into effect by the Governor in September 2014 now give tenants rights to install charging stations for their electric vehicles.  If tenants follow the letter of the law, a landlord is required to approve the installation and it could result in your tenant getting an assigned parking spot.  Here’s what you need to know, in a nutshell:

Landlord Requirements:

  • Any lease that is executed, renewed or extended on or after July 2015 is subject to these new laws
  • If you require final sign-off for the installation or use of an electric vehicle charging station, the application for approval shall not be willfully avoided or delayed. The approval or denial of an application shall be in writing.
  • You are required to approve the installation if the tenant follows the law and meets your reasonable requirements.
  • If the tenant pays for the charging station, they have the right to have permanent access to it during the duration of their lease, even if you don’t assign parking spots to other tenants.
  • You are exempt from the requirements in this law, if….
    • You already have charging stations for your tenants that cover at least 10% of the available parking spots
    • You don’t provide ANY parking
    • You are renting a property with less than five parking spots
    • You have a rent-controlled property
  • Other exemptions apply to commercial properties – read the law

Protecting Your Interests

While the law does require you to approve the tenant’s request if you are not exempt, the law also makes provisions for you to set some ground rules about how the charging station will be installed and maintained.  The tenant is required to consent in writing to your rules, and the rules can include (but are not limited to):

  • Tenant’s responsibility for and rules regarding installation, use, maintenance, and removal of the charging station
  • Tenant’s responsibility for and rules regarding installation, use, and maintenance of the infrastructure for the charging station
  • Requiring the tenant provide you with a financial analysis and scope of work regarding the installation of the charging station and its infrastructure
  • Requiring the tenant provide a written description of how, when, and where the modifications and improvements to the property are proposed to be made consistent with those items specified in the “Permitting Checklist” of the “Zero-Emission Vehicles in California: Community Readiness Guidebook” published by the Office of Planning and Research.
  • Requiring the tenant pay for all costs associated with the installation of the charging station and its infrastructure up front, such as the cost of permits, supervision, construction, and, solely if required by the contractor, consistent with its past performance of work for the tenant, performance bonds
  • Requiring the tenant pay as part of rent for the costs associated with the electrical usage of the charging station, and cost for damage, maintenance, repair, removal, and replacement of the charging station, and modifications or improvements made to the property associated with the charging station
  • Requiring the tenant maintain in full force and effect a tenant’s general liability insurance policy in the amount of one million dollars ($1,000,000) and shall name the lessor (property owner) as a named additional insured under the policy commencing with the date of approval of construction until the tenant forfeits possession of the dwelling to the lessor.  They must provide a certificate of insurance within 14 days of your approval of the charging station.
  • An electric vehicle charging station shall meet applicable health and safety standards and requirements imposed by state and local authorities as well as all other applicable zoning, land use, or other ordinances, or land use permit requirements.
  • The charging station must be installed by a licensed contractor.
  • If you do not provide all tenants with assigned parking spots, and the tenant winds up with an assigned spot because they have paid for the installation charging station, you are allowed to charge the tenant a reasonable amount of rent on the parking space.

If the tenant fails to meet your reasonable requirements, or is unwilling to consent in writing, you can deny their request, but must do so in writing.

Tenant Obligations

  • Costs for damage to property and the charging station resulting from the installation, maintenance, repair, removal, or replacement of the charging station
  • Costs for the maintenance, repair, and replacement of the charging station
  • The cost of electricity associated with the charging station>
  • Maintaining a liability coverage policy at all times in the amount of one million dollars ($1,000,000), and shall name the lessor as a named additional insured under the policy with a right to notice of cancellation and property insurance covering any damage or destruction caused by the charging station, naming the lessor as its interests may appear

If you are subject to this law (meaning you do not qualify for one of the exemptions) we strongly encourage you to develop a written policy in accordance with this law so that it is available if a tenant requests a charging station.

Read the full text of the law.

Be Careful When Evicting Tenants

March 21st, 2014

tenant screening

Did you know that if your building has multiple owners, each name must be on eviction paperwork filed with the court? Leave one name off, and you could have your case dismissed.

That’s just one of little things that keeps many landlords from getting tenants evicted in a timely manner. It’s important to follow the rules in your state very carefully. They vary, but there are basic processes you should be aware of:

First, you have to give your tenant written notice that the lease will be terminated unless they pay the rent, move the RV, pay the damages they owe, etc. The notice will be either a “pay or quit” or “cure or quit” form. For example, in most states, you have to give tenants notice that unless they pay back rent in three to five days, they must quit the premises. Or, you might give a tenant 10 days to find a new place to park the RV.

For those who repeatedly violate the terms of their leases, you can issue an unconditional quit notice, after which the tenant must leave immediately. These are often used for chronic late rent, illegal activities or serious damages (like after a really rowdy party).

If the tenant doesn’t move out, then you can begin  legal proceedings, starting with a summons for eviction. The tenant might fight the eviction, find ways to delay it or expose errors in your paperwork (see above), each of which could prevent you from winning your case.

If you do win, the judge will issue a judgment for possession of the property. Then you must check your state’s laws pertaining to tenants’ property. Most states will have local law enforcement issue the tenant a notice of how many days they have to remove their belongings from the rental property.

If you’re in doubt about your state’s laws or exactly how to proceed with an eviction, contact a lawyer who’s familiar with—or specializes in—landlord-tenant law.

The best tool to protect your rental property and assets is thorough tenant screening. Conduct tenant background checks on every applicant to ensure you are leasing to the best possible tenant.

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