The Best Way to Flag Problem Tenants

by | Jun 9, 2014 | Tenant Screening

The way you communicate says a lot about the person you are. The same is true of prospective tenants. Evaluating a rental applicant’s communication style is one of the best ways to spot potential problems.

It’s not so much the words that someone chooses, but the message that’s conveyed.

tenant screeningAs a landlord, you want a tenant who is at least as responsive during the lease term as they were during the leasing process. In addition, it pays to find renters who are honest, and amiable.

Does your rental applicant answer the phone when you call, or do you always have to leave a voice mail? Someone who calls back right away is typically screening their calls. What do you think will happen when they don’t want to hear from you?

Another aspect of responsiveness is whether the applicant answers your questions directly. Do they follow up to make sure you received the information you requested?

Always meet your prospective tenants in person to verify identity. While you’re at it, watch to see how they communicate. Some employers use the strategy of observing someone while they wait in the lobby or office. In person, you can pick up on nonverbal communication.

Many people are shy or awkward during the leasing process. That’s not necessarily a problem. But, someone who consistently avoids eye contact when they answer may be hiding something. Another red flag is someone who appears to be covering their mouth while they speak. These nonverbal cues can betray someone who is not telling the whole truth. The movements are subconscious, and difficult to control. If you are picking up a weird “vibe” from an applicant, it’s likely because what they are saying and how they are saying it don’t mesh.

A person who uses virtually every form of communication — text, email, cell, land line — is likely a good communicator and may be easy to track down when questions arise. Social people usually get along well with other tenants.

What about the tenant who loves to talk? And talk, and talk. Some prospective tenants take over the interview process. They tell you what they want, what they expect from you, but they hardly give you a chance to speak. By noting this communication style, you can determine if this individual has much respect for others, including you. (HINT: They do not!)

Tenants who talk too much, or appear to have scripted their answers in advance should be flagged and screened carefully. These are the signs of a professional tenant, a fraud who has burned previous landlords.

The professional tenant is a smooth-talker. This person has their spiel down. They know how to appear like your dream tenant. They’ll act the part by being over-conciliatory. They offer to provide information, even before you have the chance to ask for it. Another common scam is to break down and tell you a woeful story in order to play on your sympathies.

Looking back on some of the classic scams by known professional tenants, the person seems a little overrehearsed. Some have pretended to be wealthy or to have a high-paying, professional job. The “tell” is when they want more than the typical tenant. For instance, they may ask to move in immediately, or to pay more than you are asking for in rent or deposits. They can afford to be generous, because they aren’t planning to pay you anything at all.

The professional tenant will have no references, because they just got to town, or they own another home, and so forth. This person’s communication is polished. However, you may find that the answers you are getting are not responsive to what you asked, or the person will constantly try to talk you up rather than waiting for you to ask questions. This person is a high risk for identify fraud, crime, and likely has a bad rental history.

How can you tell the difference between the fraudulent tenant and the ideal tenant? That’s the secret: You can never be sure.

The only safe landlord strategy is to do your best to prequalify a renter, and then conduct a tenant background check. Every time. That is the only way you will know for sure if your prospective renter is a good risk. A credit report can show all sorts of helpful information: past addresses, employment, and identifying information. Always have a talk with previous landlords to get a sense of this person’s level of responsibility.

That way, you have the best chance of finding a good tenant, and less risk of falling victim to a fast-talker.

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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