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A Screening Process That's a Step Above

July 25, 2016 | Chamberlan Carothers CPM

This article is republished with permission from the author. It was originally published at

As a Certified Property Manager, I’m sometimes asked about the steps and purpose of the applicant screening process for potential residents. What we do is different from many multifamily properties, and it’s a comprehensive process that really pays off in the long run for both residents and property owners.

My company, Southgate Realty, LLC, puts each application through a series of screenings to ensure potential residents meet specific standards. Some multifamily property managers offer a “background check” or “credit check” for potential residents, but the Southgate screening process is much more in depth. We perform three types of screenings:

  • Credit review. Southgate professionals are looking for the absence of a poor credit score, whether that’s a high rating or a lack of credit. Financial requirements are tailored for each of our 15 communities. In addition to protecting the property owner, this process also safeguards residents. Rent that is burdensome could trigger additional financial problems for a struggling resident, and we don’t want to further anyone’s financial difficulty. For Southgate’s properties, an applicant’s monthly income must be three times as much as the rent for the unit that applicant wants. We believe setting a minimum monthly income that’s three times as much as rent is a best practice, though not all property managers do so.
  • Sex offender database. Applicants’ information is checked against a national sex offender registry. We do not approve anyone listed in that database under any circumstances.
  • Criminal search. Some criminal convictions will result in automatic application rejection. Those convictions include drug distribution, violent crimes and sexual crimes not otherwise listed in the national sex offender registry.

No screening process can guarantee the safety of any single resident, but it can cultivate a positive, stable environment for residents. The process tends to attract more responsible residents who care for themselves and others, so residents can live in a community with like-minded individuals who follow the rules.

Residents who can afford their home are less likely to leave or be evicted. Cutting mobility gives neighbors consistency, and long-term residents get to know their neighbors. It builds a sense of community, which is what we want for all our residents. It’s not a perfect world, but it’s a leg up from what you get with homeownership and home rental. There’s no screening for who your neighbors are in a neighborhood.

Also, checking applicants’ credit and criminal histories can benefit property owners financially.

For credit checks, property owners want to know residents have the ability to afford their apartment home. Turnover can cut into profits for multifamily housing investors. Not only do owners lose rent during the time when apartments are unleased, but they also pay to restore units to marketable conditions.

Fewer moves means less wear and tear on shared property assets, such as stairways, elevators and parking lots. Less movement on property results in a better look and less scuff. Too much movement can also drain curb appeal. Potential residents don’t want to see moving vans sitting in a community parking lot every week. Overflowing trash containers or eviction notices send negative signals as well. Residents who leave their rental properties under less-than-desirable conditions may give poor reviews of a property — both online and by word-of-mouth — even if the responsibility lies with those residents.

When it comes to criminal background screenings, reducing crime is not only good for residents, but can potentially cut insurance costs for owners. When done properly, warding off criminal activity can result in fewer police calls. Insurance carriers review the number of times police are called to an apartment community when analyzing risk and calculating insurance rates for multifamily housing owners.

The Southgate Realty screening process is designed to benefit both our residents and our property owners. For potential residents, it protects against leasing an apartment that could be unaffordable. For current residents, it helps provide a stable environment where long-term residents can build a sense of community. For property owners, less mobility means more consistent profitability. The screening process is quick but thorough, and it’s one that results in a better experience for everyone.

About the Author
Chamberlan Carothers, CPM, is Co-Owner and Director of Operations overseeing Investment Brokerage, Property Management, Executive Lodging, and New Property Development Opportunities for Southgate Realty, LLC. For more information about how Southgate Realty, LLC manages their 15 apartment home communities, visit their website.


07 Aug 2016 | smartgregory
We do all of the same checks noted. We require income to be 3.25 times the monthly rent and I'm considering pushing it to 3.5 times.
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