Sizing up a rental applicant is one of the toughest jobs landlords face. Just ask anyone who has been burned by a bad tenant and has spent time and money trying to recover the rental property.
Because applicants are all unique, landlords must learn to be flexible when considering prospective renters. Yet, there are some universal signs that a rental applicant may not be the best tenant.
Here are some things to look for when screening tenants:
1. An applicant who is moving sooner than one year from the current lease is going against the statistical norm. The concern is that this person is in the process of being evicted, and wants to find a new home before that happens. If that’s the case, this may be the worst possible tenant — the repeat offender. Find out from the current landlord what’s really going on before acting on the application.
2. The applicant’s ID and rental application information appear to conflict. If a young person has an extensive credit history, or an address on the ID isn’t listed on the application, there could be a problem. An applicant with a bad credit history may try using someone else’s identity to score a rental home.
3. Leaving items on the rental application incomplete. Misrepresenting information on the application may constitute fraud. An applicant may believe that leaving blanks is a way to avoid that penalty. Be wary of an applicant who claims to not remember pertinent facts. Without the information you’ve requested, it is impossible to conduct a tenant background check and catch a bad tenant in the act.
4. The overzealous applicant may be more than just enthusiastic: the person may be desperate to move in before you run a tenant background check and find out this is the tenant from hell. Don’t be bullied or cajoled into showing a property without prequalifying the applicant and asking for a photo ID. Never allow an applicant to take possession of the property without running a credit report and speaking with previous landlords.
5. Sometimes rental applicants will try to sweeten the deal by offering to pay cash — or more than the advertised rent. It’s easy to understand how a landlord would attribute this to a hot rental market, and fail to appreciate the potential danger. Illegal businesses tend to be cash-only. This tenant has a higher potential to use the property for criminal purposes or to skip out in the middle of the night.
6. An applicant who asks to pay the security deposit or the first month’s rent in installments may be a professional tenant — someone who scams landlords and then lives rent-free while the landlord battles for an eviction. This strategy often is accompanied by a sob story to earn the landlord’s sympathy. In fact, this tenant may have the money to pay and is testing the landlord.
Red flags such as these are not a determining factor when choosing a tenant. An applicant may have a plausible explanation for any of these issues. However, if you see these signs, it’s a strong message to dig deeper before you risk income loss.
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 in 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.