Albuquerque is known for its beautiful vistas, thriving art scenes, a steady economy and relatively affordable real estate. In a place like that, you're bound to find lots of promising tenants. If you're a landlord in that city, here's how to screen tenants for your rental property in Albuquerque.
Albuquerque Laws on Tenant Screening
Tenant screening laws in Albuquerque include, but are not limited to:
- Fees for rental application are non-refundable.
- Application fees are not fixed. This means that landlords can set whatever amount they see fit.
- Landlords cannot discriminate against protected classes during the application process.
- As in most municipalities, application fees and security deposits are separate transactions.
The Tenant Screening Process in Albuquerque
Tenant screening doesn't have to be difficult or costly. To make things easier, here's a quick guide on how to screen tenants for your rental property in Albuquerque.
1. Adhere to the Federal Fair Housing Rules
All landlords must adhere to the Federal Fair Housing Act. According to the Act, as a landlord in Albuquerque, you cannot discriminate based on:
- Familial Status
- Race or color
- National origin
2. Request a Tenant Rental Application
Have every prospective tenant fill out an application form. You can create your personalized rental application using a Microsoft Office template, get a sample rental application form from your local real estate association, or use one of the application forms available online through On-Site or Tenant Data.
A rental application form should include information like:
- Current and previous employers
- Contact information for previous landlords
- Current income level
- Financial information such as credit cards and bank accounts
- Personal references
- Lifestyle information such as number of occupants and number and size of pets
3. Consider the Tenant’s Rental History
If the tenant has rented with other landlords before, contact these landlords and ask these questions.
- Were they clean? How did they keep their apartment?
- Did they give a notice prior to moving?
- What reason did they give for their move?
- Did they have issues with their rent?
- Did they complain often?
- Were they respectful of their neighbors?
- Did they cause damage to the apartment?
Of course, if the prospective tenant is a recent graduate, a student or a first-time renter, they won't have a rental history. In this case, you can request a lease cosigner.
4. Run a Background Check on a Tenant
Since criminal records are available to the public, you can easily obtain this information from courthouses. You can usually find minor and serious offenses. To run a background check on a potential renter, you only need the tenant's name and date of birth.
You'll want to search databases like:
- Sexual offender database
- Department of Corrections Offender
- County Criminal History
- Statewide Criminal Record
- Federal Court Record
Performing a background check can be time-consuming. If you'd rather not go through that kind of a hassle, you can hire a reputable tenant screening company.
5. Perform a Credit Background Check
If a tenant is financially responsible, chances are they will pay their rent on time. Choosing a tenant essentially involves two steps: income verification and credit check.
To verify their income source:
- Request for copies of their pay stubs.
- Call their employer directly to confirm their monthly earnings, their attendance record, and length of employment.
When running their credit check:
- Look for bankruptcies, records of civil judgments or prior evictions.
- Check their income to debt ratio.
- Check if they have a history of paying their bills on time.
- Follow the terms of the Fair Credit Reporting Act.
- Send the prospective tenant an "Adverse Action" letter, in case you refuse to rent to them.
- Secure the approval of a credit check or tenant screening company to run credit checks on prospective tenants.
- Secure a prospective tenant’s written consent to run a credit check.
- Have everything in writing and signed to protect yourself.
- Make sure the credit checking agency is reputable.
Agencies that offer tenant screenings for landlords include:
- Mr. Landlord.com
A quick online search will also reveal more options. Make sure you do your homework first before you give them your information.
The time it takes to run a credit check varies depending on the agency you are working with. Some may take a few days, while others may take a couple of seconds.
6. Come up with Questions to Ask the Prospective Tenants
Consider doing a quick phone interview with the tenant if all background information checks out. During the call, ask the tenant the following questions:
- Do you smoke?
- Do you work night shifts or odd hours?
- Do you plan on getting a roommate in the future?
- Do you keep any pets? Are they housebroken? How old are they?
- Do you have any relatives or friends who frequently spend the night in your home?
When selecting a quality tenant, Albuquerque landlords should rely on a thorough background check. Once that's over and done with, landlords can go ahead and pick the tenant who best fits their criteria.