The landlord and tenant laws have changed in Portland this year, and screening tenants is more complicated than it’s ever been. Your screening process must be well-documented, and you have to demonstrate that you’ve approved the first tenant who meets all of your screening criteria.
Using criminal history is more difficult. You cannot consider felony convictions that are older than seven years, and you cannot consider misdemeanor convictions that are older than three years. You have to be more careful with credit, and even your income standards have to meet the established norms; otherwise, you could be asked to explain in writing why you rejected a prospective tenant who earns twice the monthly rent.
This leaves many rental property owners wondering how they can effectively screen prospective tenants and what they can look at when making their decisions.
We recommend screening tenants with the help of a Portland property management company. It’s the best way to protect yourself from liability and lawsuits.
Here are three important things that we will focus on when screening tenants.
Rent to Income Ratios While Screening Portland Tenants
Portland rental property owners now have two options when it comes to screening applicants for acceptable income levels. You can choose the low barrier option, which has some pretty lenient income requirements, or you can establish your own screening criteria. When you use your own criteria, you have to be willing to rent to people who earn between two and two-and-a-half the monthly rent.
This is lower than property management industry best standards.
Typically, we look for income that’s at least three times the monthly rent. We can’t do that anymore, so we’re very careful when screening to make sure that the income level of a prospective tenant matches the sum of two months of rent. If we’re renting out your home for $1,500, the tenant’s monthly income must be at least $3,000.
We ask for verification, which may be pay stubs, employment contracts, or even bank statements and tax forms if applicants are self-employed.
Prior Evictions and Portland Tenants
We also check the national eviction database to ensure an applicant has not been evicted from previous rental homes. The law has made things a bit trickier here, as well. A court eviction order that is older than three years cannot be considered when we are screening. This means that if a prospective tenant was evicted from a home five years ago, we must still approve that tenant if he or she meets all the other criteria.
Before approving a tenant, we make sure that renter has not been evicted in the last three years. We conduct a strict and careful check of all rental histories and we gather references from former landlords and property managers.
Verify Identity and Addresses
We can’t reject tenants who have low credit scores, but we can still check credit and examine a credit report. We do this to verify identity and to make sure the addresses on the credit history match up with the prior addresses on the application. If a tenant had a bad rental experience in their last home, they might neglect to mention it while trying to rent your home. We follow up with any inconsistencies and hold prospective tenants accountable for anything that’s not true on their application.
The new laws have made tenant screening a bit more difficult and labor intensive. However, we are still carefully looking at every application and only approving those tenants who are well-qualified and responsible. If you’d like to learn more about tenant screening or anything pertaining to Portland property management, please contact us at Performance Properties.