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Tenant Screening 101 BannerIf you’re a new landlord or even an experienced real estate investor, you might think that screening a tenant in San Diego is as easy as running a credit report and checking income. That’s not exactly true, and with the new laws that were implemented earlier in 2020, the process requires even more care and attention.

When you place a San Diego tenant, you want to make sure the resident is going to be able to pay the rent on time every month and follow the terms of the lease agreement. Evicting tenants has become more difficult, so you’re going to need to choose someone that you won’t mind working with in the long term.

Today, we’re taking a look at the basic things you should consider when you’re screening for new tenants.

Establish Rental Criteria

Document your entire process and put your rental criteria in writing. You’ll want to share these standards with any potential applicants so the people applying for your home know what you’ll be looking for in order to approve their application.

Check Credit and Criminal Backgrounds

Most landlords start with a simple credit check and a look at criminal history. We suggest you do a nationwide criminal background check, and pull up eviction records as well. Those don’t always show up on a credit report.

When you’re evaluating credit, remember that the type of debt an applicant has is often more important than the amount of debt. People fall behind on student loans and medical payments. That doesn’t mean they’re risky tenants. Look at how financially responsible the applicants are overall. If there are debts owed to former landlords, management companies, or apartment buildings, you’ll want to think twice. Utility bills should not be in collections.

Verify Employment and Income

You need tenants who can afford rent. Moving in a tenant who doesn’t earn enough money to meet their obligations will only result in disaster. Don’t set them up for failure. We often recommend an income that’s at least three times the monthly rent. Ask for verification in the form of pay stubs, tax forms, or bank statements.

Remember that source of income cannot be considered when you’re screening tenants in San Diego. California law prohibits it. Look at what is earned and establish whether it’s enough to cover rent.

Explore an Applicant’s Rental History

A girl talking on the phoneWe are always surprised when landlords don’t call rental references. Current and former landlords can tell you a lot about renting to a specific tenant, and the phone call will not take more than 10 minutes. A previous landlord can tell you how a tenant paid, took care of the property, and communicated. Always ask for contact information, and do a little research to make sure you’re actually talking to former landlords or property managers. Tenants with a terrible rental history may try to give you contact information for friends or family members.

These are just a few of the things you can do to start your tenant screening process. Remember to stay up to date with the laws. You can no longer deny an application just because a tenant has a Section 8 voucher, for example. There’s a lot to keep in mind, and working with a professional San Diego property management company is a good way to protect yourself and your process. We’d be happy to help. Contact us at Walters Home Management.