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Understanding the Lease Application Process ‘ />

From late payers and non-payers to chronic complainers and rule breakers, bad tenants will quickly turn your property investment dreams into the stuff of nightmares. Fortunately, it’s possible for landlords to avoid leasing to the nastiest of occupants—but only if you thoroughly review the tenant applications you receive and vet the information within them.

Start by Standardizing Your Tenant Application Process

Virtually every state in U.S. has its own standardized lease application, and that’s the form you’ll want to use. Contact your state’s real estate commission or the local office of the National Association of Realtors if you’re unsure where to find the most updated version of this document. Though use of these official forms by persons who are not members of the association or licensed Realtors is not authorized, your Realtor representative can get you access. 

Of course, use of a standardized form is not enough. You should also ensure that you follow the same process each time you accept a tenant application. This includes obtaining a copy of the applicant’s photo ID, a signed Authorization to Release Information form so you can run a criminal background check and obtain the potential tenant’s credit report, pay stubs to show employment and income, and the contact information of the current and former landlords. 

“Uniformity is essential,” says Jonathan H. Coleman, MBA, Broker, and Realtor Relations Manager at Go4Rent, which offers a free service for Realtors that enables applicants to apply online, upload supporting documents, and pay lease application fees. “With one standardized process to screen all of your lease applications, selecting the right tenant becomes easier.” 

Never Skip the Credit and Criminal Background Checks

If you want to reduce your chances of leasing to tenants who pay late or won’t pay at all, a credit check to evaluate their financial status is essential. “It will help you determine the financial responsibility of a potential tenant,” Coleman adds. “The credit report will also reveal any collection accounts placed by a previous apartment community or landlord.” 

Running a criminal background check in addition to pulling the credit report offers another layer of protection against the potential of renting to a tenant who could jeopardize your property. Criminal background checks will show you if your potential occupant has a relevant felony conviction or is listed on a sex offender registry. 

Talk to the Applicant’s Current and Previous Landlords

Collection accounts are one way to identify tenants who have failed to pay their rent in the past, but it’s wise to contact the applicant’s current and previous landlords to gather additional details. Did they disobey any of the apartment community or property’s rules? Did other tenants or neighbors complain about them? Did the property manager find them difficult to deal with? Did they leave any damage behind when their lease ended? This is all valuable information to have when making a rental decision. 

“The biggest mistake we’ve seen property owners make is not verifying the information provided by the tenant,”

Jonathan Coleman

Take the Time to Confirm Income and Employment

While a credit report may list current employers, it’s important to reach out to them directly when reviewing tenant applications. You should confirm the length of their employment, double-check that they are still employed there, and ask about income or wages earned. Compare this information to the potential tenant’s pay stubs and lease application. 

“It’s good practice to verify the applicant’s current employment utilizing several avenues of information,” Coleman explains. “At Go4Rent, we don’t just rely on pay stubs. In most cases, we obtain a verification from the applicant’s HR department.” 

If your potential tenant is self-employed, Coleman recommends vetting his or her income through bank statements and tax returns. “We need the ability to see the current and past performance of their business,” he adds. “At a minimum, we ask for the last three bank statements and the last two years of tax returns to provide a broader view of their financial stability.” 

If you learn while reviewing the application that a tenant is going to be starting a new job or changing jobs shortly, ask for a copy of the job offer letter. Similarly, if you note that the applicant has poor credit, you can request a Letter of Explanation addressing any particular event (such as a health emergency or divorce) that may account for the damaged credit score. 

A Thorough Review Helps You Avoid Many Landlord’s Biggest Leasing Mistakes

“The biggest mistake we’ve seen property owners make is not verifying the information provided by the tenant,” Coleman says. “You must view the credit report with a criminal and eviction report. You must verify current employment and make sure the applicant did not terminate employment after applying for the rental. You must verify the current rental history.” 

Doing so takes time but being thorough is better than making a bad leasing decision that could lead to costly eviction proceedings. If you find the process too complex or want to shorten your review time, Go4Rent can help. 

“We can do all of these checks for them,” Coleman adds. “The credit report will provide a FICO score along with all the payment history. Our criminal and evictions reports contain nationwide data. For verification, we have an in-house staff conducting daily phone calls and emails to applicant’s employers and landlords. Additionally, Go4Rent provides landlords with two years of rental history.” <

Learn more about Go4Rent’s realtor services at Go4Rent.com.

Tenant Modifications that Make a Happy Home

When tenants do feel like a rental is their home, they tend to stay longer and enjoy the property more. Flexibility in allowing minor home modifications is the key to keeping tenants happy. Although some modifications cannot be considered such as replacing all the flooring, or repainting the entire home allowing minor modifications does usually allow tenants to feel like a rental property is indeed “homey.” Tenants adore renting properties that allow them to make it feel like home! Allowing tenants as much leeway as possible with modifications will makethem happy campers who stay a long time! 

Cookie-cutter type properties are not that appealing. A rental property that allows no modifications many times can feel like a blank canvas. Allowing modifications to a rental property may deem it necessary to fix minor flaws upon vacancy, but renters can become more excited about a property if they feel they have made it their own space. Allowing pets is a great idea. Tenants with pets WANT their fur families with them! If a landlord allows dogs, tenants may seek to install a dog door for easy access to the outdoors for their fur baby or babies. A new door that serves a dog is easy to switch out, and the old door can be saved for later use. The door should be stored in a cool, dry place, to prevent warping. 

Other modifications that many tenants might seek are the installation of ceiling fans, the switching out of light fixtures and shower heads, and the addition of dimmer switches to existing lighting. Tenants seek these for various reasons. Usually they are looking to save on utility costs and create ambience. Properties that suit tenant’s needs in types of shower heads and lighting ensure longer residencies and create excitement for tenants. 

Repainting of a wall(s) for decorative purposes might be sought, or a mural in a child’s bedroom. However, the painting of any wall in question should be preapproved, and a tenant should ensure the original paint can with the color code of any wall to be painted is located and kept. A sample of any new color should also be provided before proceeding. Landlords should leave a can of paint for a tenant to make minor touch ups during their tenancy. 

Some tenants thrive on gardening. Whether fruit, vegetables, herbs or even flower gardens are many times requested. Discussions with the tenant should precede. Plantings might need removal by the tenant before vacancy as they may require routine maintenance. Reasonable accommodations can be either fixed or undone easily. Working with a tenant is always wise before denying any modifications. 

Shower heads, digital thermostats, and dimmer switches can be replaced easily. Walls can be repainted. Ceiling fans, and other less removable additions, however, depending upon the lease and the agreement between landlord and tenant, sometimes simply get left behind and become the property of the landlord. Ceiling fans and other less removable changes are too costly and difficult to remove. Appliances that were purchased by a tenant, however, under most circumstances, are the tenant’s property and can be removed by
the tenant when relocating. 

Each party, both landlord and tenant should know upfront which modifications are allowed and which are not, and this should all be spelled out in a good solid lease agreement to ensure that no misunderstandings occur. <

Round Rock, Texas

Renters looking for an exciting yet economical place to live within 30 minutes of Texas’s capital need search no further than Round Rock. Located in both Williamson and Travis Counties, this dynamic city is firmly situated within the Greater Austin metropolitan area. 

With a population of more than 128,000 as of 2018, Round Rock was named one of Apartment Therapy’s Coolest Suburbs in America and one of Money’s Best Places to Live in America. Thanks to its flourishing economy, stellar school district, and extensive shopping, dining, and entertainment opportunities, it’s easy to see why. 

Jobs in Round Rock

A center for economic growth in Central Texas, major employers in Round Rock include companies in the clean energy, advanced manufacturing, life sciences, and computer and software development industries. Dell Technologies has become one of the best-known employers in the area since moving its international headquarters to Round Rock in the 1990s. Overall, Round Rock has seen a 41 percent increase in job growth over the last decade. 

Education in Round Rock

The Round Rock Independent School District (RRISD) is among the best school districts in Texas with an average student-teacher ratio of 16 and a higher than 96 percent graduation rate. The district is comprised of five high schools, 10 middle schools, 32 elementary schools, and two alternative learning centers. Twenty-five of these schools have received an exemplary rating. 

Of course, education in Round Rock doesn’t stop there. The city is also home to campuses for Texas State University and Austin Community College as well as the Texas A&M Health Science Center. 

Quality of Life in Round Rock

Many residents say Round Rock is a wonderful place to raise a family. According to Sperling’s Great Places, Round Rock has a lower rate of violent and property crime than the national average. In its 2018 Community Survey, the City of Round Rock found that 84 percent of its residents were satisfied with their overall quality of life, and 90 percent felt safe or very safe within the city.

Shopping, Dining, and Entertainment in Round Rock

Shopping and dining opportunities in Round Rock are plentiful. At the corner of Interstate 35 and University Boulevard, renters will find Round Rock Premium Outlets, with more than 100 stores, as well as the Austin metro area’s only IKEA. 

The city also features a vibrant downtown area with more than 24 restaurants and 29 retailers. Downtown Round Rock hosts numerous family-friendly events throughout the year including market days, pop up art shows and art walks, live music, and community festivals. 

While Round Rock has invested millions of dollars to make downtown more walkable and bikeable, the Capital Metro bus service is another convenient way to get around. Its most popular routes often run extended hours with extra stops to make moving about the city easy. 

Renters who enjoy an active lifestyle will also find plenty to do in Round Rock. The self-proclaimed sports capital of Texas, the city is home to a free public skate park and professionally designed disk golf course as well as a 20-field baseball complex, five-field softball complex, seven soccer facilities, and the Rock’N River Water Park. 

Round Rock offers residents thousands of acres of public parkland and miles of nature trails as well as the opportunity to catch a Round Rock Express baseball game at Dell Diamond Stadium, a concert at the Round Rock Amphitheater, or explore the 64-mile long Lake Travis. 

Cost of Living in Round Rock

Despite all of these unbeatable amenities, Round Rock remains an affordable place to live.  According to the city government’s website, Round Rock’s property tax rate is one of the lowest in the region, as are its water and wastewater rates.

Other notable facts about Round Rock include: 

  • Established in 1851, Round Rock was not known by that name until 1854 when the postmaster requested an official change from its original moniker of Brushy. 
  • Round Rock is home to Round Rock Donuts, considered by many Texans to be the best donuts in the state. 
  • Legendary old west outlaw Sam Bass died in a shootout in downtown Round Rock in 1878 and was buried in the Round Rock Cemetery.
  • Many scenes in the classic 1974 horror movie The Texas Chainsaw Massacre were filmed in Round Rock.
  • The city’s official website is www.roundrocktexas.gov.

Khani Zulu

Hendrix & Zulu Group – Austin, TX

Khani has quickly and enthusiastically risen to the top tier of Austin agents due to her unstoppable work ethic. She has an unparalleled commitment to the client’s success, notable professional designations, community involvement, and ultimate integrity. Khani is a native Texan and UT Austin graduate. She lived in Los Angeles and ran a luxury tattoo studio together with her husband, Roni Zulu, for 16 years. In 2013, they moved back to Austin where she began helping others with their real estate needs. With over 20 years in client-facing industries, Khani’s paramount passion lies in supporting others and in exceeding their expectations and goals. She puts her clients’ needs first and prides herself on her professionalism, communication, creative problem solving and high level of customer service. <

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