Finding out how much income your applicant has is the first and most important part of screening a tenant. After all, it's the number one indicator of whether or not they'll pay the rent. If you are going to review an applicant's income on your own, we suggest you follow the same steps that we do when deciding if a renter qualifies for the Flip rent guarantee. You should:
- Verify employment and income from employment
- If applicable, verify income from assets
- Review job security and employment prospects
- Analyze monthly expenses
Income from employment
Your income verification process should vary based on the kind of employment that your applicant claims to have.
If they work a salaried job then screening them is simple. You can ask for:
- An offer letter or employment contract from their employer
- W4 forms from the most recent tax year
- Pay stubs
- Bank statements
If they work freelance, then verifying their income is more complicated. You can ask for:
- Copies of all their active contracts
- Bank statements - incoming wires should correspond to the amounts of the contracts
The contract time periods should continue throughout the period of your sublease.
In either case, you should also call their employers to verify that the applicant works for them.
Additional savings and investment accounts can complement your understanding of their monthly cash flow. Most landlords put little credence in income from assets and investment accounts, because it's difficult to know if they will be able to be spent on monthly rent. That doesn't mean that you shouldn't verify any income from assets that your applicants claims to have. You can do this with a combination of bank statements and tax returns, just as with income from employment.
Regular monthly employment income is only as good as your applicant's job security. What if they lose their job and can't find another one? They'll have to move out, leaving you in the lurch. This is why you should also investigate more qualitative inputs, such as education and professional skill set.
For example, if someone has worked for over a year as a software engineer at a reputable technology company, then the chances are high that they'll be able to pick up another job like it (or enough freelance roles to cover rent). If, on the other hand, they're working their first job in a new field and have been there for less than six months, place more weight on how low their expenses are and how high and safely invested their assets are.
Get a sense of how much cash is going out of their accounts monthly in addition to rent payments. You can do this in two ways: through a thorough credit report and by analyzing their bank statements.
Learn from their credit report: Most credit reports will include a summary of the applicant's open and closed accounts with financial institutions and their payment history. Get a sense of how often they've paid these bills in the past, as well as how regularly the expenses occur and how much of their monthly income goes to these expenses.
The credit score itself is an indicator of the person's tendency to pay bills on time and how much debt they've taken on with credit card providers. According to Transunion, credit utilization accounts for 20% of a person's credit score.
Analyze bank statements for expenses: Look at their bank statements to find debits that occur regularly month after month. Examples of common monthly, regular expenses are insurance payments and student loan payments. Also take note of the average balance they keep.
If all of this sounds overwhelming, then you can tell your potential tenant to create a Flip profile in order to verify their income. Our rent guarantee algorithm analyzes income, expenses and assets to conclude exactly how much rent a person will be able to reliably pay each month.
The information provided on this website does not, and is not intended to, constitute legal advice.
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