What is it you should consider before signing on the bottom line of a rental agreement.
There are the obvious, of course:
- Is the property attractive & well maintained?
- Are there units (available) that meet your needs – bedrooms, bathrooms, appliances, etc?
- What amenities are included – exercise facilities, a pool, spa, etc?
- Is there adequate parking and access to transportation?
Less obvious but equally important, are the landlord’s “tenant screening” practices – notably their rental criteria.
So what is rental “criteria” and why do you and I care?
Rental criteria are the standards by which a landlord evaluates a prospective tenant – often a document outlining various thresholds the applicant must meet to be granted tenancy – as well as those things that will result in denial of the application.
Criteria includes one or more of the following elements:
- Credit requirements – which establish thresholds based on a score, civil judgments and tradeline detail – or a combination of the two. Those falling short are often approved – but conditionally – with an increased deposit or cosigner requirement (depending on income). Rental collections and unlawful detainer (eviction) judgments are often grounds for denial.
- Employment/Income thresholds – generally stated as a multiple of the rental amount. Income equal to three times the rental amount is a common threshold and a decent measure of the applicants ability to afford the property. Landlords may accept those who fall short of the income requirements – but will generally attach conditions (an increased deposit or cosigner, for example).
- Public records – it is common for landlords to deny tenancy due to evictions (unlawful detainer judgements) and convictions for serious criminal offenses.
- Rental verifications – used to confirm rental history and measure the likelihood an applicant will fulfill the terms of the rental agreement – pay rent on time and comply with community rules and regulations. Reports of numerous late fees and notices will often results in denial.
Why so important?
It is important because we have a financial interest in knowing up front whether we will qualify or not – before parting with the application fee – typically $40-50 per person.
Less obvious but equally important, is knowing the criteria by which your neighbors will be screened.
Professional property managers know the drill and will often provide criteria along with the application. At least one state requires they do so – if they charge an application or screening fee.
Look it over. If you like the place and qualify – ba da bing! If you fall short, have the conversation. Share the facts and ask whether the landlord would entertain an exception. Nothing to lose, right? Failing to disclose or misrepresenting the fact will almost always result in denial.
Finally, the fact that the landlord has taken the time to develop criteria suggests that they know what they are doing and are committed to fair housing – a good thing.