The Rest of the Story (When Screening Prospective Tenants)

Screening prospective tenants - Property Management in Prescott by Far West Realty

Screening prospective tenants – Property Management in Prescott by Far West Realty

Sometimes screening potential tenants can be as much art as science.  More than once I’ve received applications from people who look like really good prospects – on paper.  But, as I mentioned in a previous post, “All that glitters, isn’t gold.”  Often, paper applications, no matter how diligently verified, just don’t tell the whole story.  That’s why, quite some time ago, I instituted a policy of never renting to anyone sight-unseen.  Just as I won’t rent a property to an applicant without the applicant having seen it, to make sure it really is what they are looking for, I also won’t rent to someone I haven’t met and interviewed.

Recently, I had one of my single tenants (I’ll call her Jane), propose, as a prospective roommate, an individual that was moving from another city to our town to take a job in the same office where my tenant worked.  Let’s call her Doris.  Jane had only met Doris once or twice and actually knew very little about her, but simply thought she seemed nice and would make a good roommate, since they would be working in the same office.

So, I told Jane to have Doris call my office to arrange for an application.  This was done, and Doris submitted her application.  When the final report came back from our screening service, it seemed on the surface like a decent report, not great, but not horrible. It seemed within the range that I might be able to approve.  When she and I spoke on the phone, I told her as much, but that I wouldn’t be able to finalize the application until I had met with her face to face for an interview, as was required of all my applicants. 

She seemed a little surprised by that, but agreed to it.  Her only caveat was that she wouldn’t be able to come to Prescott Valley for that interview until she actually came with her moving truck loaded with her belongings.  I pointed out that, even though her current city was a couple hundred miles away, it would be in her interest to find a way to arrange an advance trip for the interview, since I could not guarantee approval, and that there was a chance that she could find herself being disapproved, with no place to unload her truck.  She said she wasn’t concerned about it, so I let it go at that. (Red Flag #1)

 Several weeks went by before her actual moving day, and having expressed my concerns about what I thought was Doris’s poor judgement to Jane, and having received Jane’s assurance that she still felt good about it, I put the whole thing on the “back burner” until I heard further from Doris.  

Moving day arrived, and at the appointed time, she arrived at my office in company with Jane, for her interview.  The meeting began amicably enough, but as I asked her to tell me a little about herself, it became clear to me that she would not be a good fit at all for Jane, or the property. (Many more Red Flags)

The more she talked, the clearer it became.  That, in combination with fairly minor concerns from her application, I could see that this roommate situation was likely to come apart very quickly.  I had seen it before.  And, when that happened, my client, the property owner, could easily have gone from having one very good tenant in Jane, to having two feuding, bad tenants, or no tenant at all.  I made clear to Doris that my primary obligation was to the property owner, and since I didn’t believe the proposed roommate situation would be in his best interest, I would not be able to approve her application.

Predictably, she became quite irate, declaring that she’d never heard of anyone insisting on an interview before approving a tenant, and that she felt it was quite unreasonable.  Where was she supposed to unload her truck, or sleep that night?  I reminded her that I had warned her that this could be the result of the interview.  She said she knew that, but just hadn’t believed it would happen. All of a sudden I was a really bad guy, and her language went beyond colorful in expressing that sentiment.  She stormed out of the office in a huff.

I believe that was on a Friday.  On the following Monday, I received an email from Jane thanking me profusely for not approving Doris’s application.  She said it was apparent to her, not only from Doris’s behavior in the office, but in her conversation and behavior thereafter, that rooming with her would have been a disaster for Jane.  She was glad that my experience picked up where hers left off.

I tell this story to emphasize the importance of making personal interviews a part of the process in qualifying applicants for your rental properties.  A good paper application, thoroughly checked out, is essential, but by itself, may not tell the whole story.  Very often, the applicants will unwittingly tell the rest of it, if you will just get face to face with them and let them talk.  And more often than not, the rest of the story will serve to confirm the good things you’ve already learned from the paper application, and you will feel even better about approving them.  It’s worth the effort for that peace of mind alone, but doubly so if the in-person interview serves as advance warning of stormy weather ahead.

Call Dave at Far West Property Management to find out how much we can do for you as your rental property managers, and at how reasonable a price!  Just dial 928-772-9400, and ask for Dave.