The Investigator! - Screening Potential Residents & Applicants

We are exploring another one of the many hats Housing Hub wears as a property management company. This month, we are taking a closer look at what we do as The Investigator! There are a number of different aspects to this role - this week, we are diving into the process of conducting background checks and researching potential residents and applicants.

Housing Hub thoroughly vets applicants before signing them to a lease. There are several basic criteria we require of potential residents when they are applying for a rental unit:

1. Credit and items affecting their credit

2. Rental History

3. Criminal History

4. Monthly and yearly income

Once a potential resident applies, we conduct a background check and go through their application to make sure all of the information and the documents they provided add up.

However, new tenant screening policies have recently been put into place in Minneapolis, and are on the way in St. Paul. They took effect in Minneapolis on December 1st of last year. The change sets out new guidelines for property owners to follow when it comes to checking prospective tenants’ criminal history, credit history, and rental history.

In Minneapolis, there are two options for screening potential renters. Owners can use the inclusive screening criteria in the ordinance or do an individual assessment. Even if a rental property owner doesn't charge an application fee, they have to use one of these options.

Minneapolis: Inclusive Screening Criteria

Under this option, standards can't be stricter than the standards in the ordinance, but they may be less restrictive. The inclusive guidelines cover criminal, rental, and credit history.

Criminal History:

-Cannot consider misdemeanors with dates of sentencing older than three years

-Cannot consider felonies with dates of sentencing older than seven years

-Cannot consider convictions for certain felonies with dates of sentencing older than 10 years, including: first-degree murder, second-degree murder, third-degree murder, first-degree manslaughter, kidnapping, first-degree criminal sexual conduct, first degree assault, first degree arson and first degree aggravated robbery

Rental History:

-Cannot consider evictions where judgment was entered three or more years from date of application

-Cannot consider settlements entered one or more years before applicant submits application

-Cannot consider dismissed evictions or evictions resulting in judgment for the applicant

-Cannot screen out for insufficient rental history

-If a landlord requires an income equal to three times the rent or higher, the landlord must allow an exception where the applicant can demonstrate a history of successful rent payment with an income less than three times the rent

Credit History:

-Cannot screen based on credit score, but can consider information in a credit report if relevant to ability to pay rent

-Cannot screen out for insufficient credit history

Individual Assessment Option:

If a property owner wants to use criteria stricter than those in the ordinance, they must evaluate applicants using an individual assessment. The property owner must consider all additional evidence provided by the applicant to explain, justify, or negate the relevance of information revealed by screening.

In an individual assessment, a property owner must consider:

  • The nature and severity of the incidents that would lead to a denial

  • The number and type of the incidents

  • The time that has passed since the incidents occurred

  • The age of the individual at the time the incidents occurred

St. Paul:

New tenant screening policies are also going into effect in St. Paul, starting March 1st. Here is a breakdown of the new guidelines:

Applicant Screening Guidelines:

Landlords must follow uniform screening criteria to ensure fair access to housing.

*Rental History: Landlords may not look back at a renter’s history further than 3-years for evidence of evictions. If the landlord uses a minimum income test equal to 2.5x the rent or higher, the landlord must allow an exception to the test if the applicant can demonstrate a history of successful rent payment with the same or lower ratio.

*Criminal History: Landlords may not look back further than 3-years for misdemeanors and no further than 10-years for felonies. Petty misdemeanors or arrests/charges that did not result in convictions cannot be used as a basis to deny housing.

*Credit Score: Landlord may not disqualify applicant based upon credit score or history alone but may use the information to the extent that the report demonstrates failure to pay rent, utility bills, or withhold information in bad faith.

The new tenant screening guidelines in both Minneapolis and St. Paul will impact how we screen applicants, and change who is eligible to apply for our rental units. But just like every other change that has happened in the property management world recently, we will adapt, grow, and help our property owners thrive just like we always have!

Stay tuned next week as we take a look at another part of our role as The Investigator!