rental history report
rental history report

According to census data, over 50% of San Diego real estate is available for rent, making our region renter-heavy. As a San Diego rental property owner, you may have a plethora of applicants, but will all of them make ideal tenants?

In a renter-heavy city, you can make good use of a rental history report. Rental history reports give you more insight into an applicant’s history as a tenant. In other words, you don’t have to simply take an applicant’s word for it that they’re reliable and respectful tenants.

What can you learn from a rental history report in San Diego? Read on to find out.

Prior Leases

When you ask potential tenants to fill out an application, you probably ask them to list information about prior leases. This may include things like:

Some landlords may also ask things about the size of prior rental properties and number of residents. A rental history report allows you to verify that tenant-provided information about prior leases is accurate. While minor slip-ups (like getting the cost of rent off by a few dollars) are reasonable, lying about how much rent the applicant paid or how long they leased a property may be a red flag.

Landlord Contact Information

It’s also a common practice to ask landlords to include the contact information for previous landlords. That way, you can reach out for a reference and find out any useful information about the applicant before offering them a lease.

Some tenants may not want to provide this contact information. Others may not have up-to-date information. You can usually get landlord contact information when running a rental history report.

Keep in mind that previous landlords may have their own biases. If a previous landlord does not recommend leasing to an applicant, find out more from the history report. You don’t want to pass on a great tenant because of unrelated interpersonal problems.

Missed Payments and Damages

A thorough rental history report should include information about missed payments or damage the tenant caused to their previous rental properties. This is where you can check and balance negative information (if any) that you received from their previous landlords.

The most important thing, when screening tenants, is finding someone who is likely to make rent collection a breeze. The best way to do so is to compare verified monthly income to rent payment history. (Don’t forget to also look at an applicant’s debt-to-income ratio to make sure their current debt won’t preclude them from paying rent in full.)

The second most important thing is to protect yourself as much as possible from excessive or intentional damage. Ideally, you want a tenant who has never (or rarely) had to pay more than their security deposit to cover damages.

Prior Evictions

If an applicant has an eviction in their past, it will show up during thorough tenant screening. It’s easy to assume that all evictions are a red flag, but make sure to gather as much information as possible before passing judgment.

Pay close attention to the reason given for the eviction. In California, landlords historically held the right to evict a tenant if they wanted to move into their rental property.

If they gave another reason that a tenant felt was unjust (i.e., something other than late payments, breaking the lease, or breaking the law), the tenant may have filed a challenge. All California evictions must go through the court, so request further information to get the full story.

What If Applicants Have No Rental History?

Chances are, you’ll encounter at least a handful of applicants that don’t have a rental history. These could be long-time homeowners looking for a change or young people seeking their first post-graduation rental. Depending on the situation, there are a few precautions you can take when an applicant doesn’t have a rental history.

Require a Cosigner

If an applicant has never paid for their own living quarters, you may want to require a cosigner to approve their application. A cosigner (aka guarantor) is a person, often a parent or relative, who will become responsible for unpaid rent if the tenant starts missing payments. You can also ask for a cosigner if your applicant has no credit history or is a current college student.

Collect Personal References

While personal references (aka character references) aren’t as reliable as references from previous landlords, they can do in a pinch. Keep in mind that a personal reference shouldn’t come from an applicant’s friend or sibling. Instead, ask for references from people who are less biased, like current or former employers.

Request Proof of Income

You’re going to learn more about a tenant’s income when running a credit check, but you should still ask for proof of income if they’re first-time renters. Applicants can provide recent paystubs or tax return forms to verify their income. Comparing their self-reported information to their credit checks can give you insight into how honest they are.

What California Law Says About Tenant Screening

A full tenant screening will include a criminal background check, credit check, and rental history report, all of which are an important part of tenant placement. Are all of these procedures compliant with California law?

While the short answer is yes, landlords should stay on top of all legal changes in their state and county. For example, new laws will limit your ability to run credit checks on Section 8 renters. Currently, no forthcoming laws will impact your right to verify rental history.

Get a Better Rental History Report with NLPM

In San Diego, there’s no shortage of renters to choose from. However, you’re not making an informed choice if you aren’t collecting a rental history report. As you can see, there is a lot to learn about your applicants that you can’t get from a credit check, alone.

Are you looking for a better way to manage your rental property portfolio in San Diego? Less than 1% of our portfolio of managed properties end up in eviction due to our thorough screening and hands-on approach to tenant relations. Contact us today to learn more about our property management services.

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