They’re Out There: Bad Tenant Claims Squatter’s Rights

by | Jun 5, 2017 | Tenant Screening

A former renter with a history of evictions was in the news after moving into a vacant house and then refusing to leave.

The new owners, a family with children, purchased the foreclosure from the bank. However, the sales process took longer than expected, and after closing, the family discovered someone else had moved in. Now, the “resident” is claiming the right to remain in the property on the premise that the bank had abandoned it.

The police appear to have deferred to the civil court process rather than charging the squatter with trespass, and the woman claims a court has agreed to a hearing on her argument that she has some sort of legal right to live in the property.

Upon investigation, reporters say they uncovered a number of prior eviction filings involving the same person.

Without a lease, there is a question as to whether the legal owners will be able to recover the losses caused by their inability to take possession, the court costs, or any possible damage to the property.

While situations like this are rare, it demonstrates that bad tenants are out there, and they are willing to go to extremes to secure a rental property despite having a sketchy rental history.

Fortunately, is it possible to catch a bad tenant. One of the most effective strategies is to look for a gap in the person’s rental history. This gap often reflects activity that the rental applicant would prefer not to share with the prospective landlord.

Previous landlord references can confirm specific dates when the individual rented, and that information will reveal any inconsistent information in the rental application. From there, running a credit report along with an eviction record search and criminal history can reveal addresses not contained on the application, or other factors that show the tenant is not revealing the whole truth.

Owners with only one property are the most likely victims of bad tenants. That’s because landlords with small portfolios tend to be more lax in their tenant screening and property management policies. Bad tenants know this, and take advantage. It is important to fully investigate the person’s rental history:

When prequalifying tenants, find out why they are moving and whether the move is occurring before the expiration of the lease;

Review the rental application to determine if the rental history appears consistent. Gaps in rental history or a pattern of moving prior to the expiration of the lease — typically one year — can expose tenants who have been evicted before;

Speak to previous landlords (after verifying that they are, in fact, previous landlords) and confirm the dates of those previous leases. This is the best way to catch tenants who are not disclosing addresses where they may have had legal problems;

Run a credit report, along with eviction and criminal histories. Don’t rely on credit score alone when screening tenants;

Check the database at to see if there is any additional information available on your rental applicant.

Sign up to Report Tenant Pay Habits so that bad tenants cannot continue to victimize multiple landlords. This accountability also serves as an incentive for tenants to pay rent on time each month.

Also, keep in mind that tenants who have had multiple evictions or collection actions are savvy to the court system. They’ve been through it more often than the typical landlord. These tenants know what to say and what to do in order to live rent-free while the owner struggles to recover the property. Tenant screening is most effective if it is a process, beginning with a well-crafted rental ad and a prequalification conversation. It’s important to note what a rental applicant says in those early stages, and to verify all information provided.

While it’s easy for a scammer to come up with a false narrative, it’s difficult to keep up the act throughout the entire tenant screening process. That’s how you catch a bad tenant — by putting them through the paces, before they have a chance to cause additional income loss.

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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