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A Landlord’s Guide To Virginia Tenant Screening [2023]

There are more than one million renter households in Virginia. Although there are a lot of potential tenants out there, not all of them are the right choice for your property. 

If you’re looking for residents in Virginia, you need to be sure that you screen them well. The tenant screening process is essential and can help ensure that you find tenants who will respect your property and pay on time. 

In this rental leasing guide, we’ll tell you everything that you should know about Virginia tenant screening.

Understanding Virginia Tenant Screening Laws

When screening tenants in Virginia, there are some relevant laws and regulations that you’ll need to be aware of. You’ll want to dig deeper into these laws before screening tenants to ensure that you stay compliant.

First of all, make sure that you’re following all federal regulations and paying attention to tenant rights. You’ll need to follow the rules set by The Fair Housing Act.

Remember that you can’t screen or deny tenants based on certain factors. This includes familial status, religion, race, nationality, disability, gender, sex, military status, source of income, gender identity, or color. 

In Virginia, you’re also required to disclose certain things to tenants. This includes issues such as lead-based paint hazards, mold, defective drywall, methamphetamine contamination, and adjacency to a military air installation. Landlords also need to disclose their name or agent’s name, a statement of tenant rights and responsibilities, and a move-in/out checklist.

For lease terms longer than 12 months, a written rental agreement will also be required.

Here are a few more things to keep in mind regarding Virginia tenant screening laws:

  • Landlords can’t charge over $50 for an application fee
  • An application fee must cover tenant screening services in Virginia, but landlords can collect a separate application deposit
  • If the unit isn’t rented to an applicant, the application deposit needs to be refunded within 20 days
  • The max security deposit is the equivalent of 2 month’s rent

Aside from Virginia tenant screening laws, there are also laws and regulations to be aware of regarding the management of the property once a tenant has moved in, during evictions, and when a tenant moves out. Be sure that you’re familiar with tenant rights and regulations to ensure that you can stay compliant once you choose a tenant. 

Tenant Screening Steps to Follow

So what are the steps to follow during the Virginia tenant screening process? Here’s what you should do to screen a tenant for rental leasing.

Decide on Screening Criteria

If you have a tenant vacancy and are looking for new applicants, it’s a good idea to create a list of screening criteria. By writing down what you’re looking for ahead of time, you’ll likely have an easier time if you face a lawsuit and are accused of discrimination later on.

Have an idea of what you’re looking for in a tenant and consider the factors that are important to you. This could include an acceptable tenant credit score. It might also include a clean criminal history and a lengthy employment history.

When creating this list, however, be sure that you don’t add anything that you’re not allowed to discriminate against based on the Fair Housing Act.

Collect Tenant Information

When looking to fill a tenant vacancy, you should collect information from applicants ahead of time. On an application, you might want to get a few different pieces of information from them including the following:

  • Full legal name
  • Contact information
  • Social security number
  • Address history
  • Employment details
  • Personal references

Be sure that you get the information you’ll need to run a background check. Get consent from the applicant for running a background check and a tenant credit score check to avoid needing to do it later on.

Run a Tenant Background Check in Virginia

Next, you’ll want to run a tenant background check. You’ll need to find tenant screening services in Virginia and request a background check to start digging deeper into a candidate’s history and background. 

There are many things that may be revealed in a tenant background check in Virginia. This includes credit information, rental history, driving history, employment verification, education verification, criminal history, sex offender registries, and more.

Checking the information found in a tenant background check in Virginia can help you get an idea of whether the applicant is who they say they are. You’ll also be able to check the factors that you’ve decided are the most important to you. 

Review Rental, Employment, and Credit History

You’ll likely have your own criteria by which you would like to judge your tenants. However, some of the main things that you may want to review include rental history, employment history, and credit report.

Checking these details can give you a great idea of whether the tenant is reliable and will be likely to stay on top of their financial obligations. If they have a poor rental history or a spotty employment history, it’s less likely that they’ll pay their rent on time. 

A potential tenant’s credit report can also tell you a lot about their finances. It can help you decide whether the tenant is worth renting to or if they’ll be too risky.

Ask for References

In addition to using tenant screening services in Virginia, you should also ask for references.

Talking to references can tell you a lot about the tenant. It can give you a fuller picture of their overall reliability and behavior. If the references say a lot of good things about the prospective tenant then it could mean that they’ll be reliable when paying rent and taking care of your property.

Additionally, people are often similar to the company they keep. If the references they give you seem to be personable and professional, then it will also reflect well on your tenant.

Successful Virginia Tenant Screening

If you want to have a smooth time managing your property, be sure that you understand the Virginia tenant screening process.

First, you’ll want to follow all federal and Virginia tenant screening laws and regulations. Then, you’ll need to collect tenant information and get a tenant background check in Virginia to learn more about their reliability. 

Looking for tenant screening services in Virginia? Contact us today to learn more about how MacData can help.