Screening Criteria - Essential to Application Process and Preserving Your Role as the Gate Keeper for Your Community

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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 - in many cases MHCO Form 10 and 10A would be applicable. 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 a “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 (Remember - you cannot deny them based on Section 8 assistance)
• 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.