Get Ready to Rent - How Landlords Handle Criminal and Eviction Records
David Borden - July 20, 2015
Tenants - Almost every landlord will check your criminal and eviction history. Be prepared to answer questions about your past when you are looking to rent. Here is the next installment in my interview with George Trombley, with Las Vegas property management company, Blackbird Realty. Find out how he treats criminal and eviction records when he conducts tenant screening.
David Borden: Hi everybody, it's Dave Borden with RentScreener and George Trombley with Blackbird Realty. Today we're going to talk to you about how criminal records and eviction records are going to affect your ability to rent a property from an apartment complex, property manager or an individual landlord. Again, this series, "Get Ready to Rent: Behind the Scenes with a Real Property Manger," is designed to get you prepared to rent a property but also to save you the hassle of filling out and paying for unnecessary applications when you know that you're going to get denied for whatever reason. If you have a criminal or eviction record, you can check that with almost any kind of background checking service on the internet.
You know if you've committed a crime and been convicted of it and you know if you've ever been evicted. We're going to talk to George about how that affects his company but it may affect someone else differently. The idea is that you have to be aware of these items before you apply for something and you have to know what the policy is of the company that you're going to talk too. George Trombley's been doing property management for forty nine years, he's screened over ten thousand tenants. George, starting with criminal activity, can you walk us through what you look at and how you look at different levels from traffic tickets all the way up to felonies.
George Trombley: Right, yeah. Traffic tickets, if you don't have a multiple amount of traffic tickets for speeding and doing stupid stuff that you're going to be doing maybe on my property, probably not going to be too concerned about that but when we get up ...
David Borden: Let's move up to a misdemeanor maybe, a DUI or a marijuana charge?
George Trombley: Yeah, a DUI is not going to be a factor but marijuana is going to be something that we're going to look at.
David Borden: Some places that's a felony, some places it's a misdemeanor.
George Trombley: In all places you're going to smoke it in my house and then I'm going to have to get that out of the duct work and off the walls, off the carpet so I'm probably not going to want you to move in there because of that. Felons, felonies ... Violent felonies, save your money, you're not moving in. We just don't accept felons. We're a crime free housing broker and crime free housing brokers don't rent to people with criminal activities. Criminals are not a protected class and we stay away from that.
David Borden: Okay, remember that's George's policy. Obviously there are plenty of communities, plenty of property managers, plenty of individual landlords that may rent to a felon. The point that we're trying to make here, we're trying to save you is that if you know that you have been convicted of a felony, ask George first. Before you even look at the property say, "Hey, I've been convicted of a felony. Should I even bother applying?" His answer to you is going to be no. Somebody else's answer might be, "You know what? We're okay with that." Or, "We believe in second chances." Or, "This community is perfectly fine with that," or, "There are several circumstances out there where they'd be okay with that." We're not here to make that decision or that judgement.
George Trombley: One of the important things to say though is if it's a felony, if it's old, if it's fifty years old and you've been no problem since then, then you're going to be considered for a tenancy so just be honest with the property manager. "I just got out of jail," is going to be really bad but "I got out of jail fifty years ago and I was really dumb when I did something ..."
David Borden: "And I've had a great history since ..."
George Trombley: "I've had a great history since then." It's all what the property manager can learn about it and he'll make the decision.
David Borden: Again, every application is going to cost you money and if you know you're a convicted felon and you've asked the property manager first, "Is that going to disqualify me?" If the answer's yes, just don't apply and save your money.
George Trombley: Right.
David Borden: Go to the next person that may be willing to work with you.
George Trombley: Right, exactly.
David Borden: Now let's talk about evictions.
George Trombley: Okay, evictions. Depends on the jurisdiction that you were evicted from. Some jurisdictions when they evict you, it's for possession of the property only so if was an eviction for possession only, you may be able to rent from us provided that there's no ...
David Borden: What does possession only mean?
George Trombley: It means that they took the property away from you but they off signed no monetary judgement of value.
David Borden: Okay.
George Trombley: They simply gave your property back to the property manager or the homeowner and it was for possession only. Don't know why those are there, so you've got to invest that further. Some owners do that because they wanted to break a lease, the tenant had moved and they're just doing it to get the possession so there's no repercussions later on.
David Borden: Okay.
George Trombley: You look at, but if you find an eviction and it's from ABC property management company and then you go look at the credit report under the collections and you find that there's a $3,400 collection account for ABC Realty, pretty much eviction and then it was a collection account, money wasn't paid. Just the fact that you got evicted and then there was a paid collection showed that you cleaned it up, you straightened it out. A lot of reasons why people get evicted, they moved their boyfriend in or they moved their girlfriend in. They violated the lease in some way and they got evicted and the landlord just got possession for a lease violation.
It wasn't about your payment history, it was about a stupid mistake that the tenant made. Those are all considered, they're not automatic we're not going to rent to you, but they're considered and their evaluated for what they are.
David Borden: George has dealt with lots of tenants in his life and he has a reputation for being a pretty tough guy but he may be willing to work you. The point is, you have to disclose that stuff. Every property manager, every landlord appreciates honesty and we're not here to judge anything that anybody's done, we're just here to let you know that you have to disclose this stuff beforehand so that they can let you know whether or not they're willing to work with you so that you don't waste your application dollars. George, who do you work for?
George Trombley: I work for the owner of the properties, so I have five or six hundred different bosses because we manage five or six hundred different properties. A lot of tenants get the impression that you're working for them and you're going to do your [inaudible 00:06:35] best to get them into the property. But the property manager's position is to protect the owner from bad stuff happening and tenant screening is part of the property manager's job.
David Borden: Not only is that your job but it's your legal responsibility.
George Trombley: It is.
David Borden: You have certain statutory requirements to protect that owner, so it's nothing against anything anybody has ever done, it's not a judgement.
George Trombley: Right, right, right.
David Borden: Property managers, apartment complexes are paid to protect those investments and so they're going to consider everything that you've done in your past. Again, for the final time, to reiterate, all it is we want you to know that stuff beforehand and disclose it. It will save you application fees, it will save you hassle, it will save you looking at a bunch of properties that you're just not going to be able to rent.
George Trombley: One thing is our applications are online, so before you can put in any data, get your credit card and pay any fee, we've got a rental policy that's displayed and it tells you everything that is going to be considered before you even put the application in.
David Borden: Right.
George Trombley: You look that over and if you've got one of those things on there that you know is going to zero you out ...
David Borden: Either don't apply or call.
George Trombley: ... don't apply or call and say, "This is what happened and your policy's not clear." Then we can straighten it out, but we want you to know beforehand. Read everything before you give us your money because once you give us the money, it's nonrefundable ...
David Borden: It's nonrefundable.
George Trombley: ... because I've bought a credit report, or I've bought a criminal background check with that money. Our fees are relatively low so we're not getting rich off of them, we're turning around and spending the money to buy the reports so we can evaluate you. It's a lot easier to approve a tenant than it is to disapprove a tenant. You approve a tenant, they move in, everybody's happy. You disapprove a tenant, a lot of reporting that's got to go on, a lot of stuff that you got to do.
David Borden: A lot of paperwork for you to process.
George Trombley: A lot paperwork for me to process.
David Borden: George would rather approve you than disapprove you but he's got to protect his owners.
George Trombley: Exactly, right. Just be honest with us, just be honest with whoever you're dealing with.
David Borden: I'm Dave Borden with RentScreener, if you have any questions you can contact me firstname.lastname@example.org. If you have any questions for George ...
George Trombley: Yeah, it's email@example.com.
David Borden: Thanks a lot, have a great day.