Tenant Screening Tips: 3 Signs to Watch for to Avoid a Problem Tenant

by Chris on April 9, 2011

Catching a dishonest applicant before they become a new tenant is every landlord’s goal because it is a crucial step to avoiding serious income loss through unpaid rent, damaged property, or time and money spent for an eviction. 

Unfortunately, some tenants are savvy when it comes to cheating landlords.  By supplying misleading information, the tenant scams the landlord for free rent, then vanishes like a ghost, leaving the landlord with no recourse.

Fortunately, a landlord can increase the likelihood of a profitable tenancy through effective tenant screening.   Here are some warning signs to watch for when screening applicants:

No Bank Account
No mature, responsible adult keeps all their money in cash. If an applicant cannot produce a bank statement in their name, there’s a deeper story to uncover. Cash transactions can be a sign of anything from illegal drug activity to avoiding garnishments from creditors, and the failure to produce records also could signal identity theft or fraud.

Be wary of anyone who wants to pay in cash, especially if they seem to be in a hurry to rent or overly-agreeable.

Can’t Show Utility or Phone Bills at Current Address
If an applicant can’t verify their current address, be suspicious.  This could be a scam to hide a bad rental history by preventing the new landlord from discovering the name of the current or previous landlords. It could also mean the applicant hasn’t been paying their bills.

A landlord must now question whether this person is supplying truthful information. 

Mistakes on the Application
Phone numbers that are transposed, address numbers omitted, or sections of the rental application that are illegible may be more than an innocent mistake.

Consider the level of experience this person has as a renter.  If they have rented a few times before, be suspicious that the mistakes may be an intentional attempt to hide a bad rental history. These mistakes could also be a result of identity theft. 

A landlord would be justified in asking the applicant to provide legible information with the landlord present, or quizzing the applicant on the information stated to make certain it came from the applicant’s own memory.

When screening tenants, it is crucial to obtain a photo ID and check it against the person’s appearance in a face-to-face meeting.  Always conduct a tenant background check that includes a completed rental application, supporting documentation, tenant screening reports, and a candid talk with the current and previous landlords. 

Don’t let another rental applicant get away with fraud.

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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