Calling rental references should be a common practice, so why aren’t you calling me?
I lose 8-12 tenants per year (both by my choice and by their choice). In the last 4 years, that I have owned the majority of my properties, I have probably turned over 40+ tenants. It dawned on my the other day that despite that volume of prior tenants, I probably receive 2-3 rental check calls per year for previous tenants.
I can understand why I may not get a rental reference for a tenant that I evicted, but I don’t get calls for my best tenants that just moved out at the end of their lease. Interesting…
I was always taught as a landlord that I should be calling rental references and making that call to the previous 2 landlords when you are doing your tenant screening process. (You call both in case the current one is trying to get rid of the tenant. The one from a year or so ago will give you the real story.) Therefore, by my estimates, each year, I should be getting 16-24 rental verification calls (ie: previous 2 years worth of former tenants).
Have my fellow landlords gotten too busy to make a simple phone call to check up on their prospective tenant? Do they just not care?
As part of your screening process, using a screening service is a must, but it only gives you part of the story. They may look great on paper, but have been a nightmare tenant. Many landlords don’t file evictions if the tenant just moves out, therefore, you won’t see a problem on the rental screening. Maybe they are very noisy or have lots of parties or fix their cars in the front yard; all items that may not show up on a paper report.
There is no better information about a tenant than calling rental references to talk to your fellow landlord and find out exactly how these people have been while they lived in their property. You need to ask them at least the following questions:
- Were these people living in your property from xxx date to xxx date?
- Did they pay their rent on time?
- Did they give you proper notice to move out (in fact, did you know they are moving out!)?
- Have you had any complaints from the neighbors or any police calls to their apartment?
- How does their unit look after they lived there?
- Would you rent to them again?
- Do they owe you money now?
When you ask the questions, listen for any subtle clues or hints that the landlord is trying to give you about the tenant. Are they dying to give you the dirt on this tenant? I bet they are.
I understand that many landlords or bigger complexes will not return your calls or answer your questions (or tell you the truth), but I have found that many will. You need to try. Call me, I will take your call and tell you the truth.