Landlords: Don’t Be Fooled by a Problem Tenant

by Chris on March 14, 2016

Even in a hot rental market, a landlord still may experience income loss. All it takes it one problem tenant.

There is no magic formula when it comes to sizing up a tenant. Rental applicants are unique, and that means landlords must be adaptable. However, there are some signs that expose potentially bad tenants. Here are a few things to watch for:

Choppy Rental History

tenant screeningOne of the first things to ascertain from a rental applicant is whether the person is moving prior to the end of a traditional lease term, or has done so in the past.

If you find that the person has a history of leaving early, if could point to pending or previous evictions or non-payment of rent. There may be a good reason for this, or it could be this person does not respect his or her lease obligations.

Hiding Bad Credit

Always check the person’s photo ID against information on the rental application, and against any information from the credit report. Does it all add up?

Occasionally a landlord will discover that the personal information provided doesn’t match the information on record. A disconnect — like an address not revealed, or a young person with an extensive credit history — may point to identity theft. It’s a scam designed to thwart your efforts to screen this tenant.

Keeping Secrets

Be suspicious if a rental applicant fails to produce the name of the current and previous landlords. That’s what bad tenants do when they are in process of being evicted and need a new place to live. It also flags a bad rental history in the recent past.

Sketchy Information

Likewise, leaving lines blank on the rental application typically is a dodge. The applicant may have something to hide. By failing to answer the questions, the person has made it impossible to conduct a tenant background check. Imagine how difficult it will be to collect past due rent from this tenant.

Fast Talker

Beware the overly-enthusiastic rental applicant. This person appears desperate to move in before you have a change to check them out. Never allow an applicant to take possession of the rental before you’ve had a chance to assess your risk.

Cash Means No Commitment

Another variation of the scam above is offering to pay cash, or to pay more than the advertised rent. While some properties are that competitive, there is no way to know if the person if running an illegal business or has no intention to pay the rent, no matter what figure you decide upon.

With today’s rental rates higher than ever, it is rare that a qualified tenant will come in offering to pay even more. Odds are the person you are dealing with is a high-risk for criminal activity or default, and must be thoroughly vetted.

Installment Plans

There is no reason to allow a tenant to move in before they’ve paid the rent and security deposit in full. Otherwise, don’t be surprised if the money never comes. In all likelihood, the applicant is testing to see what he or she can get away with. Later on, this person may complain about the condition of the property and threaten to withhold rent payments.

Landlord Tip: Just because you see a red flag, that doesn’t mean that the rental applicant is unqualified — but odds are leaning in that direction. Dig deeper, and see if the applicant’s explanation holds water. If not, look for a better prospect, and be happy that you took the time to avoid a potential tenant from hell.

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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