Would You Rent to This Tenant?

by Chris on May 20, 2013

Police in the U.S. raided a rental property last week and arrested three people suspected of operating an illegal business.

The trio are accused of selling thousands of fake ID’s, mostly to college students around the country.

The dramatic raid shocked nearby residents as scores of law enforcement officials ascended on the posh neighbourhood. At the property, police found 18 weapons and a large stockpile of cash, according to one news report.

tenant screeningA single renter leased the $1.3 million home. His landlords were asked to speak to police, and revealed some disturbing information.

For instance, the tenant told the landlords that he had placed a large safe in the property. He always paid rent in cash, and told the landlords that he once bought a $60,000 car with cash. The landlords also mentioned that the tenant “fortified” one room in the house, and filled it with boxes of latex gloves. The landlords are aware that the tenant had used multiple names and identifying information.

Neighbours noticed several cars routinely at the property, according to the report.

While it is not clear from the landlords’ statements whether these red flags came up during tenant screening or later on in the tenancy, one thing is clear: this is not a tenant who should have been allowed into the property.

Now, the landlords face income loss as they wait to obtain an eviction order, and for police to release the ‘crime scene’ before they reclaim and re-rent the property.

Landlords can find comfort in knowing that for every horror story like this one, there are success stories where diligent landlords exposed problem applicants before they became problem tenants — like the landlord who discovered an identity theft while verifying an applicant’s phony employment reference.

The first step is becoming familiar with the red flags that point to a bad tenant. Here, there were hints that the tenant may have been operating an illegal business. The fact that he paid for large items in cash — and was bragging about — is a red flag. That’s not to say that everyone who pays in cash is a criminal, but it is unusual, especially for someone who is renting, and it demands more due diligence.

Multiple identities or alias names is a serious problem, as there is virtually no good reason for it.

Running a credit report likely would reveal alias names, the lack of verifiable employment or other source of income — which signals an illegal business, as well as showing previous addresses that don’t sync with the rental application or the applicant’s ID.

In addition to the credit report, especially in areas where landlords don’t have easy access to eviction reports or criminal background checks, it is crucial to speak to the current and previous landlords to confirm the individual’s rental history, and to verify other references provided in the rental application.

Problem tenants often target single-family properties, or look for landlords with few properties and little experience managing rentals. These landlords must be extra vigilant to avoid becoming victims.

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 }

Andrew May 21, 2013 at 5:10 am

“it is not clear from the landlords’ statements whether these red flags came up during tenant screening or later on in the tenancy”

-if these red flags came up after the tenancy started, then it is not reasonable to blame the landlord as this s/he did not have this information. None the less, once again the landlord suffers for the tenants’ actions.

Marv May 21, 2013 at 3:09 pm

Andrew some Landlord’s are complacent and let’s say… less than ethical when renting their property. Greed can enter into the picture i.e. tenant pays cash in advance for 3-4 mos. rent. But unless you know what happened in this instance between landlord and tenant, it’s difficult to assess landlord fault. The point that Chris is trying to make is that there are red flags when screening tenants and she pointed them out. If you are a landlord who A.) is ethical B.) cares about who is renting your property, then you need to be alert to…and aware of the red flags.

You are correct when you state, “once again the landlord suffers for the tenants’ action.” Yes, the landlord will likely suffer income loss in this instance, but was it thru his complacency to not ask questions and just take the cash? Or perhaps just ignorance? Neither one is an excuse in this day and age of easy access to landlord/tenant screening information and knowing your landlord responsibilities. I said will likely suffer income loss. Landlords who expose themselves to this type of tenant have been known to cover their risk. Landlords who expose themselves to this kind of risk…are sometimes more than complacent. 80% of tenants are law-abiding tenants and 80% of landlords are law-abiding landlords. The 20%ers won’t be reading this post. The 80/20 figure is based on the pareto principle and is not a proven or scientific fact, so don’t challenge me on that. Comments or questions are welcome.

Marv May 21, 2013 at 3:16 pm

I went thru some popular/old posts and found this. it speaks to my point about non law-abiding tenants wanting to pay cash upfront and that being a red flag as noted below where John points out same.

Deborah July 23, 2011 at 10:17 am

Thanks for the specific examples. That’s always helpful to see examples when writing an ad, whether it’s for an online site or news print.

John January 9, 2013 at 1:05 pm

Often ability to pay can be a red flag. I have had a number of applicants that want to pay 6 months rent up front, for instance, “all cash”. It turns out they want to set up an illegal pot farm or drug lab. I always reserve some other reason for denying that type of applicant. I would refer you to another article listed here “The Right Way to Reject a Rental Applicant ” for some ideas on how to do that. Red flags come in many different colors and you must be ready to respond to them correctly.

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