As a New York landlord, you are probably aware of the most recent changes made to tenant laws. You probably also know that screening a potential tenant is one of the most powerful tools you have to ensure a successful agreement that lasts for a long time. But there are some things you should—and should not—do when screening prospective tenants.
Understand So-Called “Blacklists”
The supposed “blacklist” is not an actual list, but it is the practice of landlords denying housing to tenants because they have a prior eviction in their history or because they have a housing court history. This is illegal now under the new tenant laws. A prior eviction does not mean a prospective tenant is going to be a troublemaker. You don't know what the circumstances were surrounding their eviction.
Run a Credit Report
One of the best ways to ensure that your prospective tenant will be able to pay their rent is to run a credit report. You can also pass along the charge of running a credit report onto the tenant, but you cannot charge more than $20 for this service. If a prospective tenant provides you with a credit report that is less than 30 days old, you cannot charge them to run another credit report (although you may still want to run your own check).
Collect Support Documentation
After you have run a credit check and criminal background check, you should also ask the tenant for some more supporting documentation, including:
- Bank statements going back at least two months
- Copy of their state identification (driver's license, Passport, state-issued identification)
- Copies of pay stubs going back at least two months
- Copy of their last Federal income tax return
- Letter from their employer
- Recommendations from previous landlords
Once you have this information, you should not just sit on it. You should actually verify that what they put on their application as income matches with their pay stubs say and with what their bank statements show. Check their statements to see when they actually paid their rent to their previous landlord—were they on time every month, or is there a pattern where they were consistently late.
Be sure to call their employer to verify that they work, and call the previous landlord(s). Having a quick chat about the prospective tenant will go a long way to ensure that they will be a good match for you.