Screening Criteria – Essential to the Application Process

Want access to MHCO content?

For complete access to forms, conference presentations, community updates and MHCO columns, log in to your account or register.

Your "Screening Criteria" is another important document that should be provided to an interested applicant. This is the document that will determine where you draw the line between acceptance and denial. Your "Screening Criteria" is a written statement of the factors the landlord considers in deciding whether to accept of reject an applicant and any qualification required for acceptance. What can you have on that list? That is up to you. Here is a brief list to get you started: unsatisfactory rental references, the absence of any prior tenant history or credit history, unsatisfactory character references, criminal history, bankruptcy filed in the past two years, payment of rent problems, no social security number, and inaccurate information on the application, insufficient debt to income ratio. All of these are reasons for denial – it is up to you establish them as a basis for acceptance into you community. For example – maybe you accept applicants with felony conviction that are 20 years or older – it is up to you to include that on your screening criteria.

Remember to apply your criteria uniformly in all applications. Do not make exceptions. The question of whether you denied one person and accepted another could be tied to a potential discrimination case. Save yourself the agony of these situations – write a "screening criteria" and apply it uniformly. Used properly and consistently it can be a tool that keeps you above any suspicion of discrimination. The one limit on your screening criteria is that you cannot deny residency to anyone because of his or her race, color, sex, handicapped status, familial status, national origin or sources of income. However, you can deny tenancy to anyone – even if they are in a protected class – if they do not meet any of the minimum criteria that you establish in your screening criteria. Often potential applicants will "self screen" themselves by reading your "screening criteria" and realizing that they do not qualify, thus saving you and the potential applicant time and energy.

Screening/Admission Criteria: All applicants should be presented with a full explanation of the established basis for acceptance or rejection. This should be a written statement of any factors a landlord considers in deciding whether to accept or reject an applicant and any qualifications required for acceptance. This may include:

  • Unsatisfactory rental references
  • Applicant must be 18 years or older
  • Provide two pieces of identification, one with each applicant's photo from a government office (i.e. Driver's License, State ID Card, Passport) and Social Security Card
  • Be gainfully employed or have verifiable income from retirement, social security or periodic income.
  • If the community is either an "age 55 or older" or an "age 62 or older" Community, you must provide proof that you meet the age requirements
  • The absence of any prior tenant history or credit history
  • Unsatisfactory credit history
  • Unsatisfactory character references
  • Any criminal history
  • Insufficient income to reasonably meet the monthly rental and other expense obligations
  • Presence of pets or the number, type or size of pets
  • Evidence that the prospective tenant has provided landlord with falsified or materially misleading information on any material items
  • If the prospective tenant refuses to sign a new written rental agreement or lease agreement
  • The number of additional occupants
  • Adverse information contained in the public record

Additional criteria that may be added to qualify could include:

  • Minimum two-year verifiable references with previous landlords
  • No payment of rent problems over the past two years
  • Two years of verifiable employment
  • No criminal convictions
  • No tax liens
  • Sufficient income to pay all outstanding obligations after payment of rent
  • Any individual who is a current illegal substance abuser, or has been convicted of the illegal manufacture or distribution of a controlled substance will be denied tenancy
  • Any individual or pet/animal whose residency would constitute a direct threat to the health or safety of other individuals.
  • If pets are permitted they must meet the requirements of state and local laws, ordinances, and the Community in regards to number, size and breed. Farm animals, exotic and/or wild animals, livestock and certain breeds of dogs. You should list breeds of dogs that are not allowed in your community
  • You may want to set a percentage of net-income that should be left over after meeting all financial obligations.
  • Homes must be owner occupied – no subleasing

You MUST post your community's screening criteria publicly in the office and provide written copies to all prospective residents.

Remember to apply your criteria uniformly in all applications. Do not make exceptions! Once you make an exception for one of your criteria you are opening up the possibility of future problems. You will be in the awkward position of having to explain why you made the exception to one applicant and not to another applicant. The question of whether you denied one person and accepted another could be tied to a potential discrimination case. Save yourself the agony of these situations and do not make exceptions to your screening criteria. Take the time to put your screening criteria in writing to protect yourself and provide prospective residents with a copy so that they can have the necessary information upon which to make a decision.

Remember – you cannot deny residency to anyone because of his or her race, color, religion, sex, handicapped status, familial status, national origin or source of income. However, you can deny tenancy to anyone – even if they are in a protected class – if they do not meet any of the minimum criteria.

For example: If someone applies for a space in your park and reveals that they are Catholic and have a bad credit record you cannot deny tenancy based on the fact that the individual is Catholic. However, you may deny the tenancy based on the fact that the prospective tenant has bad credit so long as the minimum screening criteria have been consistently applied.

Tell the applicant that you require a certain amount of time to screen the completed application, but that they will be notified within seven days, in accordance with Oregon law. This will give you the opportunity to complete credit and criminal checks, determine the condition of the home for pre-sale or move-in requirements, check employment and personal references; and get information about current and past tenancies.

Example: Landlord/Community
Screening or Admission Criteria

General Requirements:

  1. Positive Identification with photo ID
  2. A complete and accurate application. Incomplete applications will not be processed.
  3. Applicant must be able to enter into a legally binding contract
  4. Any applicant currently using illegal drugs or reporting a conviction for the illegal manufacture or distribution of a controlled substance will be denied.
  5. Any individual who may constitute a direct threat to the health and safety of an individual, complex, neighborhood, or the property of others will be denied.
  6. An application insufficient in credit and rental requirements shall require an additional security deposit equal to 50% of stated rental amount, over and above any other security deposit or additional security deposit required.
  7. Applicants may qualify individually, however no person may reside in the property if they do not meet the general requirements of (3), (4) and (5).
  8. In order to qualify as a co-signer you must meet all the general requirements and have a monthly income of five times the stated rent.
  9. Proof of ownership of the home.

Income Requirements:

  1. Gross monthly household income should be equal to two and half time the monthly rent
  2. A current pay stub from your employer will be required if we are unable verify income over the phone. If you are unemployed you must have income or liquid assets equal to two and half time the annual rent. Self employed individuals will be required to show the previous year tax return and employment will be verified through the state. A recorded business name or corporate filing will suffice.
  3. If applicant does not earn enough income to reside in the property then a co-signor will be required.
  4. Your application will be denied if we are unable to determine you earn a legal source of income.

Rental Requirements:

  1. One year of rental history or mortgage history verifiable by a third party is required. Current or previous mortgage history showing late payments will require an additional deposit of one month rent.
  2. Eviction free rental history is required.
  3. Rental history from a non-third party will require an additional deposit of one month rent or a cosignor.
  4. Rental history with past due rent or an outstanding balance will be denied.
  5. If previous landlord fails to give a reference or give a negative reference application will be denied.
  6. Three (3) or more 72 hour notices within a one year period will result in denial.
  7. Three (3) or more NSF checks within a one year period will result in denial.
  8. Rental history demonstrating disruptive complaints or neglect will result in denial.

Credit Requirements:

  1. A credit history with negative reports will not be accepted. A negative report is considered an non medical item 60 days past due or greater, collections, repossessions, liens, judgments or garnishments. Negative credit will result in additional guidelines as follows
    1. A credit report containing a discharged bankruptcy will require an additional deposit of one month's rent or co-signor.
    2. 1-2 items 60 days past due or greater, collections, repossessions, liens judgments or garnishments will require an additional deposit of one month's rent or co-signor.
    3. 3-5 of the items above will require an additional one and half time security deposit.
    4. 6-8 of the items above will require an additional one and half time security deposit plus a cosignor.
    5. 9 or more will result in complete denial

Criminal:

Upon receipt of the rental application and a screening fee, Landlord will conduct a search of the public records to determine whether the applicant or any proposed tenant has been convicted of, or pled guilty to, or no contest to, any crime.

  1. A conviction, guilty plea, or no-contest plea, ever for: any felony involving serious injury, kidnapping, death, arson, rape, sex crimes/ and or child sex crimes, extensive property damage, or drug related offenses (sale, manufacture, delivery, possession with intent to sell) A/ Felony burglary or class A/ Felony robbery or;
  2. A conviction, guilty plea, or no-contest plea, where the date of disposition, release or parole have occurred within the last seven years for any; felony charges or;
  3. A conviction, guilty plea, or no-contest plea, where the date of disposition, release or parole have occurred within the last seven years for; any misdemeanor or gross misdemeanor involving assault, intimidation, sex related, drug related (sale, manufacture, delivery or possession), property damage or weapons charges; or
  4. A conviction, guilty plea, or no-contest plea, where the date of disposition, release or parole have occurred within the last three years for; any class B or C misdemeanor in any of the above categories or any misdemeanors in the above categories or any misdemeanors involving criminal trespass I, theft, dishonesty, prostitution shall be grounds for denial of the rental application. Pending charges or outstanding warrants for any of the above will result in suspension of the application process until the charges are resolved. Upon resolution, if the desired unit is available, the application process will be completed. Units will not be held awaiting resolution of pending charges.

Denial Policy:

If you applicant is being denied to adverse and negative information being reported, you should:

  1. If it is credit related, contact the credit reporting agency listed in the denial letter in order to:
    1. Identify who is reporting negative information about you
    2. Request a correction if the information being reported is incorrect.

Remember - the "Ideal Resident":

  1. Pays the rent on time.
  2. Keeps the outside of the manufactured home and the space in a clean and well maintained manner.
  3. Does not litter, damage or destroy community property.
  4. Does not disturb the neighbors.

The key to identifying the "Ideal Resident" is a thorough and complete processing of the rental application and the supplemental verification forms, combined with a personal interview of the prospective tenant. "Snap judgements" or a "hurry to rent the space" must be avoided.

Used properly and consistently, the Rental Application and supplemental verification forms will prove helpful in countering charges of discrimination in renting spaces. The application should be used in conjunction with a personal interview of the entire household, which can reveal characteristics that do not come through on the written application. In order to protect yourself against claims, you must adopt and consistently follow specific guidelines and procedures by which each and every application is reviewed. The "Resident Acceptance Policy" will assist you in documenting the basis for your acceptance or rejection of each application. It is a good idea to maintain all rejected applications and supporting information for a period of at least three years. Tenant screening is a very important part of community management and it should not be done without reason and consistency. Tenant screening cannot be based on your personal feelings or emotions.

A thorough screening is your best resource for finding good residents. Current residents in surrounding home sites will feel more secure knowing their neighbors have also been screened. 

Location Tags: