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Looking Beyond the Credit Score for Quality Tenants

An individual checking their credit score through an app on their phone

Almost all landlords agree that their primary goal when assessing a new tenant is protecting their rental income. In the quest for quality Twin Falls tenants, landlords have traditionally looked at their prospective tenant’s credit scores to help them determine the level of risk before signing a lease.

A few landlords might only consider tenants with impeccable credit scores. At the very least, you’re looking for someone above a certain threshold. These landlords base their tenant approval choices on the idea that if someone has a great credit history, they are more likely to have a financially stable future. While credit scores are important, they don’t always tell the whole story.

Two significant factors that typically go into determining a credit score are:

  1. Payment history
  2. Amount of money a person owes

Other factors can include the length of credit history, types of credit, and new credit applications.

While these items are important, they aren’t telling us anything about their rental and eviction history nor their background and criminal history. A landlord could be missing out on an otherwise extraordinary tenant if the majority of consideration is placed on the credit score.

What else should I consider when screening for quality tenants?

Excited young couple have meeting in office with a property managerScreening rental applicants is a complicated process which is why property owners are correct to find out more about the tenant’s financial situation. A credit report gives plenty of practical information; however, a credit report can likewise offer more information that the property owner can use to decide if a tenant can make rental payments on schedule and in the full amount. For example, late payments on an account that is now current can bring a credit score down but also shows the applicant is now paying their bills on time.

Despite the fact that a past vehicle repossession or a credit card charge-off is a major issue for some property owners, it is critical to contemplate the impact of the Great Recession. Many individuals were affected by it, and through no fault of their own, they may have lost their jobs or homes, but have since recouped and kept up a great job and maintained their credit accounts well. Or, perhaps a possible past medical emergency caused the applicant to miss paying their medical bills or student loans, but they’ve made sound financial choices since then. Under these circumstances, the score may be a less compelling factor compared to the tenant’s payment history over time. A couple of oversights many years back should not disqualify an otherwise right applicant.

To get a more comprehensive understanding of an applicant’s situation, it’s essential to find information from the applicant that is not on the credit report itself. If the anticipated tenant has reasonable ground for their lower credit score, such as those listed above, that may be a reason to keep them under consideration. Also, property owners should always supplement an applicant’s credit report with references who can address their potential. If an applicant has a strong history of paying rent on time and a stable income, these factors may be better indicators of how they would do as a tenant than numbers on a credit report.

In summary, there are 3 questions to ask yourself when checking credit scores:

  1. What is the story behind the score?
  2. Have I verified proof of income?
  3. Have I evaluated their rental history?

Tenant screening can be an involved process, especially for single-family rental homes. Property owners generally want someone who will be a stable, long-term tenant, making the decision an even more critical one. At Real Property Management Magic Valley, we perform a thorough screening on every applicant, from credit reports and beyond. Our Twin Falls property management professionals know what to look for, and how to choose the right tenant for every rental property we manage.

If you would like to learn more about our screening process or would like to speak to someone, please contact us online or by phone at 208-734-4001.

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