A very effective screening option when reviewing an applicant is to visit their current home to see how it looks. Believe me, if you want to know if they will be good tenants, this is one of the best ways to check. You will see their house keeping, how many people are really living there, how they interact with their family members, how they keep the yard and their disposition outside of the rental office. When I did this I actually caught people lying about everything on their application – their “address” was a vacant lot which meant that their landlord reference was also “fictional”.
The problem with this tactic is that it is time consuming and is not always received well from the applicant. It can be a hassle and uncomfortable. The biggest issue can be discriminatory. If you go to visit one applicant, you better be doing it to everyone.
Here is a sly tactic that is easier to slip in. People generally keep their car in the same condition as their home. If their house is junky, so is their car. If their car is over loaded with people hanging out the windows, guess what? Don’t make a big show of this. Find an excuse to walk the applicant back to their car. Take a paper to them before they drive away. Step outside and take a quick look. It doesn’t take long and you don’t need a thorough examination. Usually a quick glance will tell you a lot. The type of car compared to their lifestyle/budget etc also says a lot.
I evicted a tenant earlier this month. He never paid on time and was a disaster. I was meeting with the owner at the house to discuss repairs. The same tenant showed up and started a conversation with the owner (he couldn’t see me because I was around the corner). He wanted to move back in. He only “moved out” because we weren’t doing repairs. I looked out the window and saw his souped up Corvette and had enough. I walked around the corner and said “Hi —-, how are you doing? Nice car you have there.” It’s too bad he couldn’t afford his rent.
A car won’t tell you everything about a tenant but it can tell you a lot. Sam Walton drove an old pickup his entire life. I bet he always paid his rent.