9 Ways to Avoid Bad Tenants

by Chris on November 12, 2012

Talk to any group of landlords and you’re bound to hear horror stories about professional tenants who rip off one landlord after another, leaving behind a trail of trashed rentals and serious financial losses.

How do these bad tenants keep getting away with it? 

It’s harder than it seems to trap a problem tenant. One reason this happens is that problem tenants tend to target small landlords who may be more flexible.

The first order of business for the problem tenant is a roof over his or her head. They may never have intended to become a problem tenant, but now it’s too late, and they need to get creative.

Bad tenants often will avoid properties with on-site management or leasing offices, like large, well-managed apartment complexes. They know there will be too much scrutiny, and “standard” procedures mean they will be rejected. 

Instead, problem tenants will look for small landlords or neglected properties.

Typically, problem tenants target landlords through:

Unprofessional-looking rental ads;
No mention of rules to qualify for a lease;
Properties with poor curb appeal; and,
Long-term vacancies.

Avoid these problem tenants by considering the message you send with each step of the rental process.

Firm Up Your Rental Ad

The rental ad — the first real communication with the applicant — must be detailed and warn applicants that they will have to undergo a tenant background check,  references will be verified, and tenants will have to follow specific rules — like no smoking.

Charge the Right Rent

Make sure your rent is squarely competitive — if it’s too low, it signals a lack of confidence.  If it’s too high, that will scare away good tenants because they know they can do better.  Instead, you will stack the applicant pool with desperate, potentially problem tenants — who don’t care about the high rent because they’re not planning to pay any of it! 

Don’t Signal Long-Term Vacancy

Problem tenants look for long-term vacancies because they believe the landlord will be willing to settle.  Avoid telltale signs of prolonged vacancies, like rental ad posting histories, scruffy rent signs, unkept yards, or ads that tout price reductions.

Prequalify on the Phone

When applicants first call, follow a strict protocol of prequalifying questions. Why are they moving? Are they moving before the end of their lease? How frantic are they to find a place ? These answers can reveal difficulties with the current landlord — a problem that is likely to repeat.

Meet Face-to-Face

Follow through with a face-to-face meeting prior to the property tour.  Forcing the applicant to follow these steps will discourage those who are trying to pull one over on the landlord — they can find easier prey.

Keep Up a Good Front

Don’t overlook the importance of curb appeal in dissuading a problem tenant. If a property is well-kept, tidy and feels secure, applicants understand the landlord has pride of ownership.  They will assume the landlord will be watching over it closely — and that spells trouble for a bad tenant.

Watch for Bait and Switch

Watch for signs that your rental applicant is helping a friend or family member who is a problem tenant.  Those with bad rental history often hide behind another applicant, then move in as a roommate or long-term guest — without having their name on the lease, or undergoing a background check.

Get Them To Verify Their Information

It’s crucial to have applicants complete a rental application.  This document not only provides the best look at the applicant’s history and character, it also contains a declaration that the information is true, and gives the landlord permission to verify background information through tenant screening reports and references.  Not all landlords maximize the value of these tenant screening tools by comparing the information with the rental application.  A little detective work can reveal that the applicant tried to hide something.

Don’t Fall for the Sob Story

Smaller landlords are more likely to show compassion for a tenant in hard circumstances — one more reason they become victims of repeat offenders. There is no rule that says a landlord can’t rent to someone with a less-than-perfect background if they choose to.  In evaluating such applicants, one measure of the individual’s character is whether they were forthcoming with the negative information, or whether the landlord had to mine the bad info after arduous research.

Every landlord deserves to know what kind of applicant they are dealing with, and to take steps to protect their investment – like offering a shorter-term lease to allow an applicant to prove their tenant-worthiness, or signing up to Report Tenant Pay Habits to keep a tenant accountable for on-time rent payments.

Remember, while landlords are focused on evaluating rental applicants, habitually bad tenants are watching the landlord’s every move — to see if they can get away with it again.

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.

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