Tenants Who Steal: Avoiding Theft and Income Loss

by | Feb 7, 2011 | Tenant Screening

Last summer, a suburban Chicago landlord spruced up the landscaping for his tenants by adding $300 worth of plants. Within hours, the neighbors spied the tenant digging the plants back up, presumably to sell them and pocket the money.  The tenant was charged with theft.

Later, a Naperville, Illinois tenant was caught stealing electricity.  The man secretly plugged an extension court into an outlet in the common area of his rental building, and ran the cord to his own apartment. The landlord reported the tenant to the police, and the tenant was charged with theft.

Two months ago, police recovered furnishings that were stolen from a Groveland, Massachusetts rental property when the last tenants moved out.  Items included the kitchen table, Christmas decorations, and silverware.

Whether it’s easy-to-hock air conditioners or recycled copper wiring, appliances or lawn maintenance tools, each year tenants steal landlords’ profits.

What can a landlord do to prevent these income losses?

Weed out bad tenants before they rent with a thorough tenant background check that includes a criminal history search and eviction report.

Check with the previous landlords to make sure you are not inheriting a problem tenant.

Prepare an inventory of items that stay with the property, preferably with photos. Where possible, label the items.

Periodically inspect the rental property throughout the tenancy.  Let the tenants know you are watching.

Conduct a walk-through at the end of the tenancy with the tenant present.  Do not return a security deposit before the tenant has surrendered the keys and removed all of their belongings.

Build rapport with neighboring property owners.  Make sure neighbors have your phone number in case they see something suspicious.

Report tenants who commit crimes to law enforcement authorities, and pursue them in court for reimbursement of losses.  That way, the actions appear in tenant screening reports so the next landlord won’t get victimized.

Don’t strive to be a kind landlord – be the kind of landlord tenants don’t want to cross.  Make it clear if a tenant steals, they will get caught, and they will be brought to justice –tenants will follow the rules or they will suffer the consequences.  Period.   

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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