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Tenant Screening Tips – By Megan McCormick

Posted on 01. Jul, 2013 by in all

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Check Photo IDs When Accepting Applications

I cannot stress enough the importance of checking a valid photo ID when an applicant submits an application for tenancy.

Checking a government form of photo ID can assist you in making sure the information stated on the rental application is true and accurate.  It can also assist you in deciphering your applicant’s handwritten information when you are ready to submit your tenant screening order.

How many times have you gone to call in your tenant screening order and realized you can’t read the spelling of your applicant’s first or last name?  Checking the individual’s photo ID can help you verify that they are who they say they are AND save you from having to track them down later to verify the correct spelling their name to process their tenant screening.

Another important reason to check your applicant’s ID is to make sure the name on the application is their legal or given name since this is the name that you will use to screen them.

Criminal and eviction records are a matter of public record therefore are searched by individual’s name and date of birth, NOT their social security number.  In order to ensure that you are receiving the most complete report possible, it is best to screen them by the legal name that appears on their government ID.

Here are some of the things you should be looking for:

  • Check the photo to make sure it is a match to the person providing it.
  • Look at the name on the ID.  Does it match the name provided on the rental application?  An incorrect name can return inaccurate results on your tenant screening report.
  • Check the date of birth to make sure it is the same as the date provided on the application.
  • Check the address on the ID.  Is it one of the addresses listed on the rental application?  If not, ASK WHY.
  • Check the ID expiration date to make sure it is valid.

The Importance of Confidentiality

It is important to remember the responsibility of security and confidentiality when accepting applications for tenant screening.  A prospective tenant is entrusting you with their personal identifying information, Social Security number, driver’s license and bank account information.  If sensitive information like this falls into the wrong hands, it can put someone at risk for identity theft.

Make sure that you keep all tenant applications stored in a secure area such as a safe or locked filing cabinet.  When you are ready to dispose of the information, make sure to do so properly – use a paper shredder or some sort of disposal system.

Another significant thing to remember is the way you submit your tenant screening order.  When placing your order over the phone, make sure you are not in a public place where you would be reciting someone’s Social Security number out loud for anyone to hear.  If you pull your own reports online, make sure that your online access is pulled through a secure server and that your computer is password protected.

Remember that the information you receive in a credit report is meant solely for you as the certified rental property owner/manager.  It is meant for you to view in order to make an informed decision as to whether or not the applicant qualifies to rent your unit.  This report is not to be given or shown to the applicant as FCRA rules state (15 U.S.C. 1681b).  You should keep a copy of the rental application along with proof of ordering a tenant screening report, such as a paid receipt for your order on file for five years.

Always remember to destroy your copy of the applicants’ credit report after you have made your decision as to whether or not they are qualified to rent from you.

Following these simple precautionary measures can help protect the safety of your applicant’s identity.  Wouldn’t you want every precaution taken to protect your identity if you were in their shoes?

This article contains general information and is not intended to apply to any specific situation.  If you need legal advice or have questions about the application of the law in a particular matter, you should consult an attorney.

Reprinted with permission of UPDATE.