Would you believe that more than half of Philadelphia city’s residents are renters? That’s good news for landlords with properties in the area. When it comes to tenant screening Philadelphia landlords need to be aware of the latest laws and regulations on it. It’s by far the best way to ensure that their rental properties are being occupied by excellent tenants and not those who will abuse them.
In this post, landlords will learn a lot about the Philadelphia tenant screening process:
- Philadelphia tenant screening laws
- Free resources
- Basic screening processes
- Finding tenant screening services
Tenant Screening Philadelphia Laws
Philadelphia tenant screening is regulated by plenty of federal, state and municipal laws. In fact, metro cities usually have their own set of laws that are even stricter than Pennsylvania state laws. That’s because metro areas will usually have a higher amount of renters than more rural and suburban areas. Also, regulations are always changing, so landlords should always keep up on the latest.
Here are just a few features of Philadelphia tenant screening laws:
- Landlords must be licensed with the city before they can rent any properties.
- Neither the state of Pennsylvania nor the city of Philadelphia limit the amount a landlord can charge for an application fee.
- Application fees in Philadelphia are non-refundable, even if an application is denied.
Philadelphia tenant screening laws important for landlords to know about. This guide outlines many of the procedures that Philly landlords need.
Are You Making This Common Screening Mistake
Whether you know it or not, there’s one screening mistake that far too many landlords in the greater Philadelphia area are making that really limit their ability for background checks. If landlords don’t get a signature from the applicant, they are not allowed to run a background check, even if all the other spaces in on the application are filled out. In other words, Philadelphia landlords need to have the signature of the applicant or else they won’t be able to run a background check. If your application doesn’t have a signature line, you need to make the change as soon as possible.
Here’s how we do it at RentPrep:
Look at the top red arrow. Notice that it points to the information about the nonrefundable application fee. Look at the bottom red arrow. See how it shows applicants where to sign to provide consent for a background check.
Resources for Tenant Screening in Philadelphia
RentPrep has gathered a helpful list of links for you to use in your real estate business. There’s no better way to find top tenants than to use the information here.
- Rental Application PDF – Have every prospective tenant fill out this rental application.*
- Move-In Move-Out checklist – This is helpful for after the tenant screening process to make sure you document the condition of the rental
- Rental Lease Agreement – Once you’ve decided on a tenant you’ll want to draw up a lease. (make sure this editable doc is compliant with your state laws)
- Summary of Your Rights Under the FCRA – Our screeners here at RentPrep are FCRA certified to ensure compliance on your screening report
- Philadelphia Fair Housing Commission– Lots of information on Philadelphia landlord/tenant issues
*Join other Philadelphia landlords in implementing a no blank space policy. This means you don’t approve any applications that have blanks for answers. When people want to hide part of their past, they leave blank spaces for answers. Discarding incomplete applications ensures you have all the best applicants with the most complete applications.
Philadelphia Tenant Screening Process
Do you have a tenant screening criteria list for applications yet? If not, you ought to put some thought into it right away and create one. There’s no easier and more consistent way to sort through applications than with a Philadelphia tenant screening criteria list.
Basically, to create a list, landlords need to come up with a set of factors they’d like to see in their ideal tenant. Then, they create a written list. The conditions should be specific enough to help sort applications but not so stringent that they exclude everyone.
Here’s a good example of a Philadelphia tenant screening criteria list:
- No prior evictions
- Income to rent ration must be no less than 3:1
- No smoking
- Pets limited to dogs only under 12 lbs.
- No violent criminal history
- Credit score above 600
- No bankruptcies
Once the list has been established, landlords can compare each application and keep the ones that are the closest match. It helps you stay fair and consistent as you review each one.
It’s never OK to participate in any kind of tenant screening discrimination. There are very strict anti-discrimination laws in Philadelphia and denying someone of a protected class from housing can mean big trouble for landlords. Also, Philadelphia’s protected classes exceed the federal and state levels. For any questions about federal housing discrimination, look at the hud.gov website.
Philadelphia screening laws include:
- Besides the protected classes at the federal level, Philadelphia’s protected classes include sexual orientation, gender identity, source of income and domestic/sexual violence victim status.
- Landlords can ask for an application fee for all adults on the application.
- Philadelphia landlords can deny an application based on a failure to meet their non-discriminatory criteria on a tenant screening list
There’s also this helpful website that helps landlords stay informed on all kinds of rental issues in their city.
Check Out Your Pennsylvania Screening Guide
In many cases cities have their own screening rules and regulations while the state has another set of rules that govern the screening process.
Click here to go to our post on “Pennsylvania Tenant Screening Process.”
Tenant Screening Guide
If you’re looking for a thorough course on tenant screening, look no further.
Check out our tenant screening guide at this link, https://rentprep.com/tenant-screening/
This will walk you through the tenant screening process.
Finding the Right Tenant Screening Services
Once you’ve gathered your top applicants, you will be able to submit their information for a professional background search. But, of course you need to find a tenant screening service that is thorough, accurate and affordable. The good news is that there are several reputable companies out there that help landlords find the details about their applicants.
Your report should include:
- Judgments and liens
- Previous addresses
You and other landlords in Philadelphia will have a much better set of tenants when you follow the city’s tenant screening laws and regulations.
At RentPrep, we have experience with over 21,000 landlords over the past 10 years. Check out our tenant screening packages to see the services we offer.
Our FCRA certified screeners will put your mind at ease by providing the best tenant screening report available.