Keeping the residents you already have is almost always the easiest, most cost-effective way to keep revenue flowing in. When renters want to renew their lease, it seems like a no-brainer.
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But, there’s a catch. Rushing into a renewal can lead to drawn out issues with residents, costly disputes, and even evictions.
Lease renewal screenings are an easy way to save your future self from that headache, find out how residents have fared since they first signed their lease, and spot any potential problems before they get out of hand.
Screening residents multiple times can understandably raise some questions. Are additional screenings really worth the effort? Wouldn’t they damage the trust you’ve built up with residents?
Fear not. This post will address those concerns, show you overlooked benefits of resident screening checks for lease renewals, and give you pointers on conducting them in a way that feels effortless for everyone involved.
How Renewal Screenings Benefit You
It’s pretty obvious why property managers and owners skip screenings for lease renewals. If a resident has always paid their rent on time and never given you problems, why not just renew their lease? Past experiences with a renter can give you some confidence in your relationship moving forward, but it doesn’t offer the whole picture.
It’s similar to signing a lease based solely on references. Even if those references are glowing, a screening check is still important, not to mention standard practice across the industry.
The same is true for renewal screening checks. A lot could have changed for residents over the course of their initial lease beyond what you’re aware of. A simple screening fills in the blanks and comes with a few key benefits:
- Cost Savings. This one’s self-explanatory. A screening check helps you understand any issues your residents are facing. Catching any issues now can avoid costly worst-case-scenarios mid-lease, like mediation between residents, evictions, and even litigation.
- Resident Well-Being. For multifamily properties, a renewal screening process makes it easier to ensure the well-being of all your residents, and shows that you’re invested in the community.
- Peace of Mind. The best part is that, when done right, renewal screenings take a lot less effort than initial screenings, so you can focus on getting those leases renewed. It all starts with knowing what to look for.
What to Screen For
Renewal screenings are similar to new resident screenings, but even easier. You won’t need to gather as much information as you did the first time around. These are the three essential elements of resident screening checks for lease renewals:
- Credit Report. There’s no substitute for good credit. This provides the most complete, verifiable view of renters’ financial habits, backed by the ‘Big Three’ credit ranking agencies: Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion. Increasingly, residents are also able to use rent reporting to boost their credit score with on-time rent payments. Keep in mind that the results of a credit check can often change between leases, so be sure to make this a consistent part of your renewal screening.
- Income Verification. Usually done through sharing a W-2 statement, income verification is another factor that helps demonstrate renters’ ability to consistently pay rent on time. With a lot of job reshuffling coming out of the COVID pandemic and the shift to remote work, income verification between leases is even more important to stay on top of.
- Court History / Criminal Background Check. Finally, a check on court history and any past criminal convictions should be part of any renewal screening. However unlikely this kind of activity may seem for residents, running these checks are a responsibility that you shouldn’t ignore.
With the formalities taken care of, don’t forget to do a “soft check,” as well. Beyond a formal screening, consider your history with the resident. Have they paid rent on time? Have there been any issues with other residents or in the way they’ve used the unit, shared spaces, and amenities? These are all things to consider before renewing a lease.
How to Introduce Easy, Non-Intrusive Renewal Screenings
The most important thing to remember when screening residents is to keep the process transparent. It’s the best way to avoid alienating your renters.
Be Aware of FHA Guidelines
To comply with Fair Housing Act (FHA) guidelines, make screening checks for renewals a standard across all your leases for a particular property. This keeps the process fair and easier for you to manage. Take extra care to ensure all your screenings—including renewal screenings—are non-discriminatory (i.e. you’re not discriminating against protected classes), by following local laws and reaching out to a legal professional when in doubt.
Make Screenings Smooth Sailing
A failsafe strategy? Disclose renewal terms, including renewal screenings, in your initial lease agreements. Residents will appreciate having those details readily available and won’t be blindsided when it’s time to renew their lease.
Of course, when it comes to resident screenings, the less undue effort involved, the better. That’s true both for you and for your residents. Property management software makes initial and renewal screenings easy to perform and a consistent experience for all your residents, with minimal work on their part, too.
With an automated process for screening residents—and for keeping them up to date along the way—there’s little reason not to conduct a check in between leases.
At first glance, renewal screenings can seem like an unnecessary burden, but, with the tips above, you’ll be avoiding much larger costs in the future, all while renewing leases responsibly and with confidence. With the right technology, it’s practically effortless.
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