Considering A Guarantor While Screening Applicants
We all find ourselves unwilling placed into this post pandemic phase, many landlords are asking how they are going to continue to find responsible individuals to pay rent and maintain the property. Many of your applicants might be students or individuals who are coming out of their financial crisis. They may not be able to meet the housing providers screening criteria requirements when it comes to the rent to income ratio. In these cases, you may require the applicant finds a guarantor. The applicants may also come to you and ask if you’re willing to accept a guarantor or also known as a co-signer.
A guarantor is an individual that is financially stable enough to help take on the financial responsibility of another individual in the event they default. Guarantors help cover the cost of the rent during the tenancy if the tenant is not able to. They also can be held responsible for any financial obligation in the event of an eviction.
If you screen an applicant and see they do not meet your criteria, if you are willing you can offer them the opportunity to obtain a guarantor. When it is decided to screen a guarantor/co-signer you will need to fill out and provide each of the applicants with an Adverse Action Notice per the RCW.59.18.257 and use it to approve them with conditions. The condition you will state is the use of a guarantor.
A few perks to having a guarantor are they give the housing provider assurance that if the tenants can’t pay the rent, their guarantor will step in and make the rent payment. The guarantor is the responsible party that agrees to “take on,” or assume the financial obligations that are set forth within the lease. They do not reside in the rental unit.
Here are some examples for when a guarantor could be requested:
- Non-U.S. resident or international student (i.e., no FICO score) - (some landlords may accept your international credit history. Learn more here)
- Low credit score
- Limited available funds or lack of consistent employment income
- Unconventional source of income (i.e., non-liquid)
- Perceived failure to meet the qualification requirements but the ability to fulfill rent obligations
The Housing Providers screening criteria generally will state the income requirements for the applicants to determine if they will meet the income qualifications. The table below provides an example. (Taken from the ‘Application Criteria Guidelines’)
When checking for sufficient income, most landlords only use verifiable garnishable wages or government and/or charity program vouchers or government issued payments. Typically, an income to rent ratio of 3:1 is common (i.e., rent should not exceed 33% of gross income). Some landlords choose to require a flat, monthly income in lieu of using an income to rent ratio. Some lower income properties set this at 2.5:1, while higher end homes often require a 4:1 ratio. Debt to Income ratio should not exceed 20% of the applicants’ income.
NOTE: See ‘Resources’ on RHAWA.org for details on working with rental assistance programs. You will find them listed under ‘COVID Rental Assistance’.
The guarantor should be able to exceed the income requirements section of your minimum screening criteria. Keep in mind your guarantor should be someone financially stable enough to meet all their financial responsibilities plus help your applicant if or when needed.
A guarantor may add additional assurance not only for your prospective tenants but for you as a landlord/housing provider. They add a bit of protection as a credit-worthy third party without having to worry about the renter’s inability to pay their rent due to unforeseen financial pressures.
When you or your applicant(s) ask about a co-signer/guarantor, you will want to screen the guarantor to decide that they are able to meet your screening criteria’s income requirements. Either have them fill out an online application or give them a hard copy application. If your RHAWA Membership is Certified to receive credit, be sure to screen them with the Basic Screening package. This package will provide you their full credit report, which includes their credit score, credit history and public records, for example a bankruptcy or court ordered child support.
Once you have determined that your prospective tenant’s guarantor exceeds the financial qualifications and you decide to approve the prospective tenant, the next step is the lease. The guarantor does not sign the lease but instead you will have the guarantor complete the Guarantor Addendum form which is in RHAWA’s Landlord – Tenant forms. The Guarantor Addendum explains in detail their responsibility.
If you have further questions, please contact RHAWA Screening Dept or Resource Desk.
Disclaimer: This article contains general information and is not intended to apply to any specific situation. If you need legal advice or have questions about the application of the law in a particular matter, you should consult an attorney.