Tampa Property Management Tip #1: Complete the application process on every tenant!
The single biggest mistake a new person makes at a Tampa property management company is skipping the application process for a prospective tenant. First of all, you must keep extra application forms in your glove box in case you run out. Second you should put a stack of applications in every vacant rental. Place half of them in the kitchen cabinets because some new applicants will steal the ones on the countertop so no one else will rent the house. Put the other half on the kitchen counter tops. You should also save your application to your computer in a format that you can easily email to prospects.
Here comes the Big, Huge, Insider Secret of Property Management: prospective tenants lie. You cannot accept any story from them at face value. Get on the phone and verify their rental history with the previous two landlords. Do not just check the current landlord because you will often not hear the true story if the landlord is desperate to get the tenant out. The previous landlord will provide the no B.S. assessment of your applicant. Their opinion is usually gold.
Next, you must pull their credit and criminal background reports. So many small landlords will skip this step because they do not want to set-up the service. The company that allows you to pull these reports usually has to send someone out to verify you have some sort of office and record keeping system. This can take a couple of weeks to complete. You will save yourself 100 times the cost and aggravation of setting up your account verses not pulling a credit or criminal background report and ending up with a problem that could have been avoided. In property management it is always best to know who you are renting to rather than to go off your instinct.
Instinct is a terrible way to run a Tampa Property Management business. Whether you have 1 or 20 rentals, you are running a business. About 15% of the people who apply for a rental from a private landlord are professional deadbeats. These deadbeats travel from one private landlord to the next and prey on those who do not do a thorough property application process. The initial money you receive from these people will be the last you ever see from them. Their goal is to beat you out of 3 to 6 months worth of rent before you finally get around to filing the eviction and throwing them out. They will have every story in the world for why the rent will be paid next week, next month, or in your next life.
The property manager needs to look for evictions or money owed to a previous landlord on the credit report. When this appears, you must disqualify the person right away, regardless of what story they have about their previous landlord. Let me tell you right up front, you will hear some really awful tales about the other landlords in their life. These dastardly landlords fix nothing especially the leaking roof which caused the ceiling to cave-in the night before Christmas. The tenant will tell you an extremely convincing story of why they were not at fault. The reason the story is so convincing is because they have been telling it all over town and have gotten a great deal of practice. They even know just the right time to tear up or let their voice crack (I am not kidding).
If the credit is good, you should pull their criminal background. Now, whether you accept someone with a criminal background or not is up to you. I typically ignore all felonies over 10 years old if non-violent. Depending on the neighborhood and type of rental property, I ignore the criminal background that is 5 years or older provided it is non-violent offense(s).
Finally you should check their work history. Beware that you do not fall for verifying their employment with their friend. Do not call the number they give you unless it is the main number of the company. If the tenant doesn’t provide the main number, you should Google the company or check the yellow pages. This is a very common tactic so be careful and do not blindly accept what they put on the application.
Oh, by the way, if the credit report comes back as blank and the person is over the age of 24, the applicant is likely using a false social security number. I have even found people using social security numbers of dead people. Now this sort of thing is more common in the lower income neighborhoods but a Tampa property management company will eventually see it everywhere.