4 Ways to Hold Bad Tenants Accountable

by Chris on March 11, 2019

Holes in the doors. Piles of trash. Months of rent unpaid. It’s difficult to witness the damage caused by a bad tenant. It’s also scary to think how often these tenants get away with it.

Landlords need to stick together to create barriers that discourage tenants from repeating the same bad behavior — over and over again.

References: It’s Better to Give and Receive

Landlord references are critical to protecting a rental property. In this case, it’s as important to provide references to prospective landlords as it is to seek those references on your own applicants.

Bad tenants balk at this step of the tenant screening process, so watch for the red flags:
The applicant asks that the current landlord not be contacted for any reason;
The current landlord is not listed on the rental application or contact information is missing; or,
The landlord reference is fake.

One of the easiest ways to confirm the reference is real is to ask questions only a landlord would know about the property and compare that with information found online. Fraudsters typically are too lazy to get the story straight. Another strategy is to leave a message or ask the person to call back and check caller ID. Or, if the landlord is local, there’s always the option of a face-to-face meeting.

Obtain the applicant’s consent before contacting the reference. Consent to conduct a tenant background check typically is included in the signed rental application.

Also, make certain that the other landlord is describing the same person. In at least once instance, an applicant assumed the identity of a favorite tenant in order to receive a glowing reference. Be sure to confirm the property address.

Be prepared to ask specific questions about the tenant that relate to the tenancy:
Did the tenant provide notice of termination?
How long has the person been at the property?
Any late payments or defaults?
Property damage?
Complaints?

Many landlords end with, “Are you aware of any reason I should avoid renting to this tenant?”

Pay it forward. Be willing to respond to other landlords who call for references. Stick to information pertaining to rental history but be forthcoming with details that may help others avoid income loss.

Report Rent Payment History to a Credit Bureau

When it comes to holding tenants accountable, the secret is to make it count. There may be no greater incentive for tenants to behave than to avoid wrecking their credit.

By signing up to Report Rent Payments each month, a landlord provides a very real consequence for bad tenants who think they can string a landlord along with late or missing rent payments. Maybe that worked in the past, when landlords had no recourse, but now landlords can stand with other creditors when it comes to accountability for payments.

While the system provides disincentive to tenants with poor payment history, it also can aid good tenants in building credit and a strong rental history.

Add Tenants to a Database

Landlords have long sought a database where bad tenants can be reported so they do not continue to rip off landlord after landlord. The problem is landlords are limited in where and how they can report such tenants. Fortunately, there is a reputable tenant database at Landlord Credit Bureau. These listings include both good and bad tenants, so landlords gain peace of mind — or a heads-up that the applicant is a tenant from hell.

As more landlords participate, fewer bad tenants slip through the cracks and victimize multiple landlords. Good tenants will benefit, while bad tenants will find they are accountable for their actions.

Pursue Delinquent Tenants

There is a myth that once a tenant skips out, there’s no way to collect what’s owed. After all, the tenant doesn’t have any money.

That myth is decidedly false.

Many tenants have the money, they simply choose to keep it to themselves. Others fold immediately once formal collection efforts have begun.

Tenants rehabilitate. A court judgment for past-due rent or damage to the property lasts a long time — often 6 years or more. By then, the tenant may have a job, bank account, or other assets ripe for collection.

An added benefit: the judgment appears on the tenant’s credit, which makes finding rental homes in the future difficult. That places pressure on the tenant to pay up — or suffer the consequences.

This post is provided by Tenant Verification Service, Inc., helping landlords reduce the risks of renting with fraud prevention tools that include Tenant Screening, Tenant Background Checks, (U.S. and Canada), as well as Criminal Background Checks, and Eviction Reports (U.S. only).

Click Here to Receive Landlord Credit Reports.

Disclaimer: The information provided in this post is not intended to be construed as legal advice, nor should it be considered a substitute for obtaining individual legal counsel or consulting your local, state, federal or provincial tenancy laws.

{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Don Tepper March 13, 2019 at 9:13 am

Excellent suggestions, except . . .
I’ve probably had 10 former separate tenants in my property in the past 10 years. In some cases, it’s a family group (one “tenant”). In other cases, it was several people (for instance, 2 20-somethings who both moved out to buy places of their own. Most moved on to other rentals. In not one instance has anyone (future landlord, lender) called me to check references on my past tenants. (The two guys who bought places of their own were consistently late in their payments, for instance.) And in a few cases, those tenants have moved yet again . . . so there have been perhaps 15 times in which a landlord or lender could have/should have contacted me.
Not one has. Not a one. I suppose it’s possible that some set up fake references. Or they asked their future landlord not to contact their current landlord (me). In some cases, they were great tenants. In two cases, they were horrible. But I wasn’t even contacted by the landlords for the great tenants.
I used to manage my own property, but now have a property manager do it. The property manager checks all references. However, those reference checks didn’t detect the two horrible tenants, and I wonder if it’s because (as with employment situations) the current or past landlord is afraid/unwilling to give a poor review. In one case, I had someone else (not the property manager) follow up with a terrible tenant’s past landlord . . . and got a positive review. The only moral I can draw is that if you get a terrible reference (which I never have), there may be some truth to it. If you get a good reference, it’s totally worthless.

Leave a Comment

Previous post:

Next post: