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A Landlord’s Guide To New York Tenant Screening [2023]

Around 50,000 people move to New York each year, and each needs a place to stay. As a landlord, we understand that this does not account for everyone, and plenty of internal movement happens as well. With that in mind, how can you process so many people and ensure the new residents moving into your apartments are safe?

This article will give you a series of landlord tips that should help you organize your New York tenant screening process. Both old and new landlords can use this article as a checklist with which to ensure they do everything right.

New York Tenant Screening Laws

The city and state have specific laws when it comes to screening residents. Over time, these have evolved and changed, although these include:

  • New York City Human Rights Law
  • New York State Human Rights Law
  • Fair Housing Act
  • New York Housing Stability and Tenant Protection Act of 2019

Fair Housing and Human Rights Laws

These are the general laws that prevent discrimination based on the following criteria:

  • Race
  • Creed
  • Color
  • National origin
  • Gender
  • Age
  • Disability
  • Sexual orientation
  • Uniformed service
  • Marital status
  • Partnership status
  • Alienage
  • Citizenship status
  • Legal source of income
  • Whether children would live at the residence

This is a long list, and as such you should be careful when screening for these. In general, avoid using different criteria or screening processes for different people. This will help you to avoid accusations of bias.

2019 HSTPA

The New York Housing Stability and Tenant Protection Act of 2019 is a detailed set of laws. There are very few issues related to screening, but one thing you should be aware of is that it places severe restrictions on tenant screening fees. You can also no longer check for prior evictions during such a screening process.

Collect Information Ahead of Time

When you are about to screen a tenant, try to learn as much as you are allowed to ahead of the process. This will save time in the future. Learn their:

  • Personal details
  • Previous rentals
  • References

Try to also get enough information from them to run a background and credit check. These will be very useful to highlight red flags.

By learning them ahead of time, you can ensure the least amount of back-and-forth as you need to find out more.

Running a Background Check

Running a tenant background check in New York can inform you of many things a potential resident might not want you to know. These can include whether they have a criminal record or other important legal problems. It can even be as drastic as whether the individual is on the sex offenders’ register or a terrorist watchlist.

It can also show you details of their previous residences. This means you can compare their reported rentals with what they submitted.

When you do this, make sure you follow all applicable laws. Get authorization from the individuals in question and ensure you act within the bounds of the law. One of the best ways to do this might be to hire a professional screening service that already has these checks in place.

Rental and Employment History

Investigate both a tenant’s rental history and their background of employment. This can offer a much better idea of their reliability. It can show whether they have a good history of paying rent and whether that is likely to continue in the future.

Using the detail the potential tenant provides, contact their previous employers. When you do, try to learn whether the details they provided about their role in the job were accurate.

You can also get a little bit of insight into the nature or character of such people, although be aware many companies do not offer much. They may only give you information on the dates the person worked there, for reasons of privacy regulations or similar.

Another thing checking this can help with is learning more about a tenant’s reliability and trustworthiness. If they have provided false references or information, there might be something they wish to hide. Learning this earlier allows you to check to see if they missed out on details and to follow up on issues that might be relevant.

Credit Report

In reviewing the potential tenant’s credit report, you can understand a lot more about their state of financial stability. It goes over and above whether they have paid rent in the past and can give you a very good indicator of whether they have the means to continue doing so.

When you run the check, check for any outstanding debts and try to learn as much as you can about them. References to collections or bankruptcies should also raise red flags. You might want to deny people who trigger these as it suggests a history of bad financial decisions.

References and Recommendations

Talk to specific personal or professional individuals the applicant has offered as references. They can act as character witnesses and expand your knowledge of the tenant.

This gives you two different levels of assessment:

First, you can learn more about how others view the applicant and whether they have information they think you might want to know. Asking about times they believe the tenant has faced challenges might also offer you insight into the applicant’s nature.

Second, you can judge the tenant on the quality of their references. If they have provided you with references that are not relevant to your needs, it suggests they have few or no professional contacts. On top of this, if the references they have given you do not sound professional, you might want to judge someone by the company they keep.

Using a New York Tenant Screening Service

With the above tips, you should have a much better idea of how to start screening tenants. Still, wouldn’t it be much easier if you hired a New York tenant screening company to do all this for you instead? This way, you can have all that extra time to handle other issues and keep your portfolio well-maintain instead.

We host tenant screening services in New York and are more than ready to start working with you to get the best people into your apartments. So, give us a call and learn how we can speed up your tenant screening process today.