Fifty percent of all evictions start with a fraudulent rental application. Armed with this knowledge, I’ll bet you have a greater desire to detect fraud. It’s not front-page news that eviction and criminal history are commonly omitted from rental applications. You run a credit report to find out what applicants are not telling you. It’s all about weeding out liars.
Common Mistake #1: Taking Adverse Action for the Wrong Reason
When you screen your applicants and find an eviction or criminal activity that they didn’t tell you about, on what grounds do you deny that applicant? If you answered that you deny them because of the eviction or criminal history, you are making a mistake. The correct answer is that they committed fraud on the rental application and you have a strict no-fraud policy for all applicants. By answering this way, you will avoid potential discrimination lawsuits – if you used the standard AOA Rental Application.
Common Mistake #2: Not Keeping Records of All Applicants Long Enough
The second mistake owners make is not keeping the rental applications and reports for the applicants they rejected as well as those they accepted. FCRA requires that you keep credit reports for three years; however, you actually need to keep applications and all the related paperwork for five years. We suggest keeping both a hard copy and a digital copy of each applicant for that golden five-year period.
Once again, it is important to keep these documents in case you are ever sued for discrimination. Lawsuits are inconvenient in every way. It complicates an already distressing situation when you shred and delete supporting evidence that would have shown the judge you routinely deny those who do not meet your rental criteria. Holding rental applications for five years should prove beyond a doubt that you have an equitable tenant screening process in place.
Common Mistake #3: Not Verifying Identity
When you do see an eviction or conviction on a report, do you take the time to verify that the person in the report is really your applicant? We suggest that you check to see that the address listed on that eviction report is also listed either in the credit report or the prior address history report found in the AOA 3-in-1 Criminal Report.
When you have a result that shows up on the criminal report, make sure to read it carefully. Is the conviction something that would endanger other tenants in your building? If so, then take the next step and also run a county criminal report to make sure that the report is producing results for your applicant and not someone with the same name.
Harmony Between Reports
There is a beautiful harmony between reports when you run one of AOA’s package deals. Let’s say your AOA DoubleWhammy Eviction report shows an eviction for your tenant. In some counties, the full identity of the evicted tenant may be masked. However, because you also ran the AOA 3-in-1 Criminal Report, you have their previous address history. The property mentioned in the eviction report and one of the addresses listed may match. Although the chances of someone with the same name having an eviction record in a populous county like L.A. may be probable, someone with the same full name being evicted from the same property is much less likely. If you ever have questions about your report, please keep in mind that you can call AOA Tenant Screening Customer Support until 7:00 pm, Monday through Friday, and from 10:00 am to 3:00 pm on Saturdays.
Our goal is your success! We hope this information will help protect you from potential lawsuits. You can also search our library of articles to learn more about the tenant screening process. Simply visit our website, and type “Tenant Screening” into the search bar. Please keep in mind most articles are state-specific, and may not be city or county specific. Another tool that is critical to your success is the AOA Rental Application Package; it contains a checklist, the Rental Application, Form 100Q, and other forms that are very useful as you screen to find the best tenant for your property.
Best regards, Jeff Faller, President of AOA