Tenant Screening Tips: 3 Ways to Flag a Bad Tenant

by Chris on October 12, 2015

A Saskatchewan landlord recently shared the story of how she struggled for months to evict a tenant who moved in and then refused to pay rent. While this tenant appeared to have references, he allegedly had a criminal record, a bad rental history, and now is doing the same thing to another landlord.

 tenant screeningBad tenants can be clever. The tighter the rental market, the more incentive they have to find ways to scam landlords. But landlords can fight back by anticipating some of these common tricks:

Fake References

When tenants know that they will have to fill out a rental application and list references, they may try to scam by listing friends rather than disgruntled former landlords. Fortunately, there are ways to expose his scam:

Ask for multiple landlord references, including the current landlord. It’s more difficult to line up a series of false references.

Ask a few questions that only the true landlord would know. For instance, ask specific questions about the property, like how many units in the building. Try leading by asking to confirm something you know to be inaccurate.  A fake reference won’t correct you.

Other strategies include advising new applicants that you require a rental application and a tenant background check, and informing applicants that false information on the rental application will be viewed as fraud.

Hiding Criminal History, Evictions or Bad Credit

Without access to eviction reports or criminal history on an applicant, it is particularly important for a landlord to run a credit report. Fortunately, these reports can expose a bad payment history, previous judgements, an order for criminal restitution — the telltale signs of an eviction or criminal history.

The tenant’s credit report also may show addresses not listed on the rental application, which is a red flag. Gaps in the rental history can point to eviction or incarceration. These gaps may become more evident when verifying information with previous landlords.

Tenants trying to hide this history often will “soft talk” a landlord. An applicant may be chatty, charming or may resort to flattery to convince the landlord to pass on a tenant background check. When landlords get burned, they are surprised because the tenant seemed nice.  A related strategy is for the applicant to tell a sob story, and ask for the landlord’s sympathy. It’s no coincidence that tenants with something to hide prefer to target inexperienced or informal landlords.

Another red flag is the tenant who wants to pay a deposit in increments. Likewise, if the rent is a stretch, but the tenant isn’t blinking an eye, that could spell trouble. In these situations, a bad tenant’s goal is to get possession of the property. They know that once they are inside, they can spend months stringing the landlord along while they refuse to pay rent.

You can discourage many bad tenants by participating in a local Crime Free Multi-Housing program. This certification training is sponsored by local police departments. Check with your local property management association to find out more.

Moving In With Current Tenants

Another common way to hide a criminal past, eviction or other bad rental history — and avoid tenant screening altogether — is to move in with someone else. That’s why it’s important for landlords to require that each adult occupant complete a rental application and undergo a tenant background check.

While there may be some limitations on a landlord’s right to investigate guests or new occupants, chances are, you can restrict new tenants to only those who can pass a tenant background check. This will require that the new occupant complete a rental application. This right is contained in the lease agreement, so make sure it provides the maximum protection when it comes to long-term guests, roommates, and new occupants.

Landlord Tip: Problem tenants appear to seek out new or inexperienced landlords. It’s easy to see why: these landlords are less likely to run a tenant background check. Avoid becoming a victim by including a disclosure in your rental ads that you do screen tenants, and if applicable, that you participate in a Crime Free program. This can discourage bad tenants from targeting your rental 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.

{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

claire-Ly October 14, 2015 at 9:57 am

I think we should have Eviction Reports made available in Canada as well.
Also cause for eviction, as vandalizing the apartment, breaking appliances, dirt and grime hard to clean and unauthorized visitors and bad behaviour towards other tenants.

Dennis October 15, 2015 at 11:26 am

I think we should have a Tenant Delinquent lists for all the the major cities in Canada.
These lists should be available for all Landlords.

Jack October 19, 2015 at 4:06 pm

Is there a registry for bad tenants? If not, I think there should be one.

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