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 rental property or to persons. That means that you certainly do not want to rent to an arsonist, drug dealer, sex offender or anyone who might harm your property, other residents, or might engage in illegal activity on the premises. Consider requesting a criminal background check as part of your screening process. Your applications should not ask about ‘arrest’ rather they may inquire about ‘convictions for serious crimes against persons or property.’ Most housing providers, in years past, would decline to rent to persons convicted of a serious crime against persons or property. The law recently changed prohibiting blanket denials based upon criminal convictions. Rather, housing providers must now identify individuals with criminal convictions and process their application in a special manner. This ‘secondary review’ should consider the “nature, severity, and recency of the criminal conduct.” Every case will now require individual attention and the review will be based upon the individual facts presented. Note that your consideration of past convictions should be limited to serious crimes against persons or property that were committed in the relatively recent past. This area of law is undergoing changes, so expect ‘clarification’ this legislative session. You should consult your attorney for specific guidance in this area.
Proper tenant screening requires you to ask each applicant to submit a credit screening fee upon submission of an application (the allowable amount changes annually – check with the Apartment Association of Greater Los Angeles for the current maximum). Although many housing providers do not require the payment, thinking that they might lose an applicant, by requiring the payment, it acts as a pre-qualifier effectively eliminating the worst of the worst.
Verify all the information provided on the prospect’s
application. Make a photocopy of the applicant’s government issued picture identification and maintain all in a safe and secure location. Verify employment by independently securing the contact telephone number from the phone book, or internet. Do not be surprised if the ‘supervisor’ listed on the application, along with the phone number is simply the applicant’s girlfriend and her cell phone. When contacting previous landlords, expect to get the most helpful information from a ‘previous’ landlord, not necessarily the current one.
Run credit and eviction reports on every applicant. Verify the information that appears on each report with that provided on the application. Look for inconsistencies, different addresses, or gaps in employment or residence. Does the applicant have multiple social security numbers? Different names or spelling of names? If the applicant is self-employed, ask for confirmation of a legitimate business. Does he have a website? Business cards? Business license? Ask to see his original bank statements for the past six months to verify that he actually is depositing the amount of money that he claims to be making.
Consider informing all the prospective applicants that you have a policy of taking a picture of all successful candidates and retaining the pictures in your files. This simple policy and practice is extremely effective in weeding out the potential drug dealer, identity thief, and those intending to use the property for illegal purposes, these folks just don’t want their photo taken, and will quickly withdraw their application.
Consider making a surprise visit to the applicant’s current residence. An unannounced visit about dinner time is usually most informative of the applicant’s current living situation. If you see a car

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