Time and time again over the twenty-seven years working on the front lines of a Tenant and Employment background screening company I have witnessed the magic happen when a small or large apartment management company creates a clear and concise Tenant Selection Policy.
In selecting tenants their confidence becomes sky-high with a success rate to match. Now isn’t this what we all need – a high success rate of finding great tenants? At the same time the liability from lawsuits is minimized. When you attend a Fair-housing class one of the first things they encourage you to develop is such a policy. Much of my time in the last five years has been helping landlords – both large management companies and residential management owners build a solid Rental Criteria. It can be tricky. It takes thought and knowledge to create a good one but well worth it. This article is the first of six exploring how you can create a clear and concise Tenant Selection Policy. Some of the rewards received are the following:
- COMPLIANCE with Federal, State, Local and Fair-housing laws.
- EFFICIENCY in corporate management oversight of one property or multiple sites specifically site-managers.
- ESTABLISHES BOUNDARIES giving the message to potential tenants – this Management Company has their act together. They have rules and enforce them.
- OBJECTIVE DECISIONS are made as to which rental applicants qualify for a rental unit and which ones do not.
- TRAINING TOOL for new staff – policies for both rental applicants and staff members are in writing and integrated into the Selection Policy – no guessing.
- SALES TOOL – When an apartment owner or landlord are shopping for a “premier” management company, a highly defined and organized Tenant Selection Policy can be impressive.
WHERE TO FIND HELP
It is the law to have and use a clear and concise Tenant Selection Policy – at least it is in Washington State. I am sure other states require the same.
The Washington State law, Fair Tenant Screening Act of 2012 has been in place for many years now, yet management companies and landlords are having to face Fair-housing complaints, audits and even costly lawsuits due to non-compliance. Later we will review the law in Washington State but first HOW does a landlord find help establishing a good Tenant Selection Policy? And how does one stay awake and aware of the ever-changing sometimes oppressive laws? Trying to accomplish this on your own is enough to make you want to sell your assets and buy apartments in Texas, Idaho or Arizona where the laws are FOR LANDLORDS and business owners. In the states where the laws are less and less favorable to landlords and more favorable to tenants we need to stay more “on our toes” in understanding Fair-housing, State, Local and Federal laws. Landlords appear to have more confidence and success in the rental business when they are members of, and active in management/landlord associations. These associations help keep a landlord updated on laws, offer use of rental forms – such as Tenant Selection Policies, provide education and mentoring and have a most important element – a Political Action Committee. They hire lobbyists to speak to legislators on behalf of landlords. These lobbyists fight for landlords’ and they fight hard. If you hear yourself mumbling under your breath or even shouting from the rooftops because of the burdensome landlord tenant laws and you want to see a change for the better, join an association and support the Political Action Committee and lobbyist! They are your voice when it comes to laws for or against landlords. Here are a few (but not all) of the associations I personally recommend:
- LANDLORDS – Washington Landlord Association, WLA
- RESIDENTIAL PROPERTY MANAGERS – National Association of Residential Property Managers, NARPM
- MANUFACTURED HOUSING COMMUNITIES – Manufactured Housing Communities of Washington, MHCW. In Oregon it is, Manufactured Housing Communities of Oregon, MHCO
- AFFORDABLE HOUSING PROVIDERS – Affordable Housing Management Association, AHMA
HELPING LANDLORDS – At Orca Information, Inc. we process many background screenings each day. Before we bring on a new client, we are required to review their paperwork they present to rental applicants. Gross negligence and even small oversights in proper wording of forms and rental documents can easily cause our clients lawsuits and sometimes those lawsuits could carry over to the screening company. Orca Information, Inc. therefore has a vested interested in helping our clients with basic laws governing the background screening process. This means much of my time is spent helping landlords improve their Tenant Selection Policy and other forms. Actually, all tenant screening companies have a responsibility to help their clients with complying with the laws governing the application process.
Clients will also call our office asking questions regarding a challenge they are having with a rental applicant. Example: An applicant does not qualify for a rental, how does the rental manager “legally” tell them they are unqualified for the tenancy? There is a simple answer to this question. The 1st step to solving this problem is to look at the companies Tenant Selection Policy then examine the applicants background screening report – looking for the reasons they have not qualified. Where it gets complicated is when the Tenant Selection Policy has not been correctly worded or is vague in description of what qualifies an applicant and what does not. That’s where I usually come into the scene – to help the client create a strong policy so they can avoid such challenges in the future.
In the next article on a Tenant Selection Policy we will cover the Fair Tenant Screening Act of 2012 and how it defines what is required of you to bring up to date or create a clear and concise Tenant Selection Policy. Stay Tuned!
Note: Rebekah Near is not an attorney and is not qualified to give legal advice. The above information is her opinion based on her work in the Tenant Screening industry.