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A Landlords Guide to Texas Tenant Screening (2023)

If you want to increase your chances of picking a good tenant for your rental property, you need to engage in tenant screening. This involves looking into your prospective tenant’s background as a means of gauging their reputation. The cleaner the prospect’s tenant screening, the more reliable they’re likely to be as a tenant. 

Note, however, that tenant screening isn’t a free-for-all. There are laws in place regulating it, and if you want to avoid legal troubles, you need to abide by those laws. 

That said, what do you need to know about Texas tenant screening? Is a tenant background check allowed in Texas? What are the Texas tenant screening laws? 

We’re going to answer these questions and more below. 

Texas Tenant Screening Laws

We’ll begin by discussing Texas tenant screening laws. The most important laws for you to know about include the following:

Screening Cost Fee Limit

Some states have laws regarding the maximum amount of money a landlord can charge a prospective tenant on an application for the purpose of running a background check. There is no such law in Texas. Landlords can charge prospective tenants whatever they want for the purpose of running a background check. 

It should also be noted that, by Texas landlord tenant law, these fees are non-refundable. In other words, you don’t have to give the fee back in the event that the client’s application is rejected. 

Notice of Tenant Selection Criteria 

Before accepting a prospective tenant’s screening fee, you must ensure that they’ve been given full notice of the tenant selection criteria. This should specify the criteria that a prospective tenant needs to meet in order to be taken seriously as an applicant. 

To prove that you’ve given this checklist to a prospective tenant, you must also obtain an acknowledgment of such signed by the prospective tenant. 

Types of Screenings Allowed

Now, let’s talk about the types of screenings that are allowed. Are there any limits as to what a landlord can check about a prospective tenant’s background? Put simply, no. 

That said, regardless of what the landlord screens about the tenant, they need to alert the tenant about it within the tenant selection criteria notice. This includes everything from background checks to eviction checks to credit scores and more. 

Understanding the Fair Housing Act

The Fair Housing Act is a federal act that affects landlord rights in Texas and all other states. It prevents landlords from discrimination when it comes to the renting of their properties. Landlords can’t discriminate based on race, color, religion, gender, disability, place of origin, or familial status. 

In short, if the applicant can pay the background check fee and meet all other selection criteria, they need to be taken seriously as a tenant. 

The Steps Involved in Running a Tenant Background Check in Texas

Now, let’s talk about the specifics of running a tenant background check in Texas. Following these steps is key to abiding by Texas landlord tenant law.

Gain Consent from the Rental Applicant

First and foremost, you need to gain consent from the rental applicant. You can do this either by having them sign a section on your rental application or by giving them a separate form altogether. Regardless of how you do this, however, you need to ensure that they’re fully informed of what they’re consenting to. 

Explain what tenant screening will entail. Also, alert them to the fee that they’ll have to pay. Note: Texas rental law makes it illegal to run a tenant background check without obtaining the tenant’s signed permission first.  

Have the Applicant Fill Out a Rental Application

The next step is to have the applicant fill out a rental application. This will help you determine whether the prospective tenant meets the baseline criteria for renting the dwelling. It will also give you the information necessary to run a successful background check. 

The primary information to ask for on the application includes name, current address, social security number, date of birth, driver’s license number, work history, and bank information. For more information on creating a rental application, click here

Find Tenant Screening Services for Texas Landlords 

Once you’ve obtained application information and applicant consent, you can run a background check on the applicant. The best way to do this is by hiring tenant screening services for Texas landlords. These services understand landlord rights in Texas and will ensure you’re not overstepping any bounds. 

Do Some Legwork

If there’s anything in the background check that comes up as questionable, you should do some leg work to garner further information. For instance, you might speak with the applicant’s present and past employers. Or you might speak with their previous landlords. 

This will help you form a more thorough opinion of an applicant and will therefore assist you in making your decision. 

Inform the Applicant of Your Decision

Finally, you should inform the applicant of your decision. Do they qualify for your unit or not? If not, you’ll need to draw up a rental application denial letter. 

A rental application denial letter not only informs the applicant that they don’t qualify for the unit, but it also tells them why. 

Need a Texas Tenant Screening?

Now that you know a thing or two about Texas tenant screening laws, you might be looking for tenant screening services in Texas. If so, look no further. MacData has you covered. 

We provide the best tenant screening services Texas landlords can find. If you need to run a tenant background check in Texas, give us a call at 386-254-4888. 

Have questions for us? Contact us now!