Landlords are busy people. We understand that when you receive a negative reference for a tenant, the automatic reaction is to quickly cross them off your list and move on. However, while we are certainly in favor of your using the information you receive from a background check, here are also a few words of caution we’d like to offer.
Sometimes, prospective tenants are forced to offer references from landlords that they have difficult personal relationships with, particularly if they are renting from an individual rather than a company.
When you receive a poor reference from an individual landlord, consider discussing it with the prospective tenant before you rule them out. It’s not unheard of for family issues, personal feuds or even rebutted romantic advances to be a factor in these cases, and your prospective tenant has a right to explain their side of the story.
One Bad Reference Isn’t the Whole Picture
If you have requested multiple references, and there is one bad reference among several good ones, it may be a good idea to discuss it with your prospective tenant or take the bad reference in context rather than focus on that one negative issue.
Sometimes, when you ask for multiple leasing references, you will get a negative one that dates back a significant period. Tenants often stay in rented premises for several years, so a third or fourth reference could relate to a rental that ended a decade or more ago. Ask for details about the rental period as well as the reference, so you can put the results in context.
After all, if your tenant has been a model renter for many years and has one very old black mark on their record, you’re probably doing okay!
Discuss Issues With Prospects
If a prospective tenant has a great credit history, seems like a good fit and has a few good references and one bad one, then it’s always a good idea to discuss the issue with the tenant before you decide. They may be able to provide insight into the situation that you just won’t get on paper.
Consider Mitigating Measures
If you still want to rent a property to a tenant who has a slightly dubious rental history, then you may consider discussing mitigating measures with them. An additional security deposit, for instance, may be an option, to limit your risk, or your tenant may agree to more frequent inspections of the property.
Know Your Limits
Sometimes, if you are renting a property that is not in high demand, you might not have too much choice about who you rent to. If you do have a limited pool of applicants, you may have to make some compromises, but it’s always a good idea to know what your bottom limit of acceptable tenant history is. You may be able to accept one bad reference, but a recent bankruptcy may be a deal breaker. Know what your limits are before you make any decisions.
Use a Professional Screening Service
When you use a professional tenant screening service, the company collects and collates information, creating a report based on references and checks that presents the relevant information in an easy to follow manner.
Stripping out the unnecessary information in this way can make it quicker and easier for landlords to make sense of large amounts of information, and it’s often worth the investment!