It's impossible to overstate the importance of screening your renters. While military renters may be the gold standard for many Arlington property owners, a rigorous screening process is still crucial. At the very least, you need to verify the information on every application, and it's important to treat all renters the same—military or not.
There are countless reasons to rent to active servicemen and women and their families. Military renters tend to be hardworking, honest, reliable, clean, and respectful. Unfortunately, there are exceptions to every rule—which is one of the reasons you should always work with an Arlington property management company that can use its resources to thoroughly screen each renter.
A quick note: This article is not legal advice. However, it can be a great introduction to screening future great people for your great spaces. If you're facing a situation that requires legal counsel, work with a competent attorney, or get in touch with the experts at RentSimple!
Verify Their Service Record
As unbelievable as it may seem, someone could falsely claim to be in the service when they are not. Part of your screening process for military renters should be confirming their active duty status.
You can do so using this website. You will need some of the basic information you should already collect from each applicant, like their name, date of birth, and social security number. It's important to verify this information because special protections apply to military renters when they may need to break their lease.
Get a Copy of the Applicant's LES
Income verification is an important part of every potential renter's background screening process, but it works differently for active-duty military personnel. You'll want each military applicant to submit a copy of their LES (Leave and Earnings Statement) with their application. This statement includes income information, including the applicant's BAH (Basic Allowance for Housing).
- BAH is the amount that each service member receives specifically to pay for housing, and it's important to include.
- You'll use this figure in addition to base pay when calculating the applicant's income and determining if it meets with your requirements. The LES will also include the zip code that the BAH amount is based on.
- The amount varies depending on the cost of living in a specific location where the individual is stationed—and whether this amount is for a single person or an individual with dependents.
Ask for Official Orders
If you're not accustomed to renting to military personnel, this might seem like a strange or even out of line request, but it's perfectly acceptable to ask for a service member's latest official orders. Doing so will confirm that they have, in fact, been assigned to the Arlington area. Their official orders will also include a 'Report No Later Than' date, which is the date that they must be at their new duty station (and typically also the date by which they must secure housing).
The official orders should also include a code that reads 'PRD,' which stands for Projected Rotation Date. This is the date by which—assuming military plans don't change—the individual is expected to be assigned to a different duty station, potentially outside of the Arlington rental market.
By looking at the applicant's official orders, you know when they need to find housing by and when they may have to leave; so you can plan the term of the lease accordingly. If the structure of this sort of agreement is concerning or stressful for you, leave it in the hands of a capable Arlington property management partner!
Understand Fair Housing Rules
It's very important to remember that all the rules and regulations put into place under the Fair Housing Act apply to military renters just as they would any other applicant. The act basically prohibits discriminatory housing practices, so it's always crucial to make sure your screening process doesn't discriminate—even in appearance. You may ask for different documentation when screening military applicants, but you cannot use different criteria to decide whether to accept an application.
- You should especially keep this in mind when considering the service member's PRD (Projected Rotation Date), as discussed above. You cannot turn down a military applicant because of this date.
- As outlined under the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act (SCRA), a service member may terminate their lease 30 days after the next rent due date (after giving notice) if they have a change in permanent duty station or separation of service.
Work With a Property Management Expert
Screening renters is often a challenging process—and it can be made more complex if the applicant in question is also in the military. That's why it can be hugely helpful to work with a qualified Arlington property management company that offers a lot of experience in this arena. At RentSimple, we take resident screening very seriously, and we're so confident in our screening process that we offer an Eviction Free Guarantee to back it up.
- We utilize a thorough, in-depth, and fair screening process to find the best renters for your property.
- We have years of experience providing expert services in the Arlington rental market.
- We understand how to attract great people for your great spaces.
Contact us today to learn more about how to safely (and respectfully) screen military renters. We're committed to matching great spaces with great people to provide lasting returns for property investors in Arlington and the surrounding areas!
Screening your future residents is just one element of protecting your portfolio in the Northern Virginia area. To learn more about steps you can take to secure your lasting returns, download your free copy of our resource, Protecting Your Investment Property: A Guide!