How Much Does a Bad Tenant Cost?

by | Jul 29, 2013 | Tenant Screening

You’ve probably heard the phrase, “a bad tenant costs more than a vacancy.” But just how much does a bad tenant cost?

Let’s look at an actual example.

A tenant signed a one year lease and paid a security deposit. Shortly after moving in, the deposit cheque bounced. The landlord allowed the tenant to tender another cheque. That bounced, too. The tenant offered up cash for the deposit and the landlord accepted the tenant screeningpayment.

A few months later, the tenant informed the landlord that she needed to break the lease. The two failed to commit any understanding regarding early termination to writing, and disputed both the proposed and actual move-out dates.

The landlord did set out to find new tenants, which she says took five weeks, and only then if she lowered the rent by $250 a month.

The parties disputed nearly every point of what happened next. The landlord didn’t re-enter the property, but allegedly told the tenant she needed her to move her car so the new tenants could move in. Soon, the boyfriend became the point of contact, and later the landlord saw an unknown guest living in the property.

Not surprisingly, the case wound up in dispute resolution, with the tenant insisting the landlord terminated the lease by finding new tenants, and the landlord fighting a battle to recover unpaid rent and other expenses.

The hearing was a close call for the landlord. She had failed to provide a receipt for the security deposit. She neglected to complete a move in/move out report, which could have cost her the security deposit. She didn’t step in to recover the property at the proposed move-out, and it took her a long time to find new tenants, despite the duty to mitigate damages. Additionally, the evidence which she submitted late was rejected, and she and the tenant fought over whether the landlord had filed her claim for the deposit in time. If the landlord had lost that fight, she could have been forced to pay the tenant double the deposit.

Fortunately, the landlord prevailed in dispute resolution. She received a monetary judgement, and was allowed to apply the deposit to money owed. In one sense, she won the case. But in reality, she lost — after all, she already had a legal right to the rent — her signed lease agreement. Now, she will have to collect the judgement from a tenant who has moved away.

In this case, the tenant cost the landlord around $4,000, and she won a judgement for most of it. The landlord was lucky — a typical eviction could tack on another $2,500 or more.   Add in property damage, bad cheque charges, and the cost of collecting a judgement, one bad tenant is easily more expensive than a vacancy.

What can landlords do to minimize that income loss?

First and foremost, carefully screen every tenant. Make no exceptions — that pleasant, seemingly overqualified applicant that made such a good impression could just as easily be a bad tenant. Professional tenants know how to play the game. Credit reports, landlord references, and verification of the rental application are all important ways to protect your interests.

Collect the maximum security deposit allowed. That may be all the money you will see from a bad tenant.

Make doing the right thing feel good, and doing the wrong thing uncomfortable. By signing up every tenant to Report Tenant Pay Habits, good tenants are rewarded with a stellar rental history and continued good credit, while bad tenants may think twice before coming up with excuses to break a lease or damaging the property.

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.

Property management software for Canadian Condos.

Property Boss

Property management software for single family, multifamily, and student housing.


Screening services for property managers and landlords. Select a market below.