Red Flags of a Bad Potential Tenant

After you’ve put so much hard work, equity and elbow grease into a rental property to get it just right you want to pick a tenant that’s going to treat it with care. But not all potentially bad tenants walk around with a sign that says “I’m going to destroy your new paint job and carpet.” So here are a few signs to watch for during your thorough application screening process.

They have moved/changed jobs often. A good rule of thumb is more frequently than once a year/every 2 years for a period of five years or longer. You have to give a break to military families or college students as moving is the name of the game for them but if those aren’t their circumstances and they are on the move every 6 months that’s a big red flag.

You get conflicting feedback from previous landlords or references. Maybe you call one reference and it’s stellar but the next is hard pressed to name something ‘likeable’ or ‘reliable’ about this tenant. Often potentially bad tenants will line up friends mixed in with real references to get by in the hopes that you’ll only call the first one or two names on the list. But you’re a pro landlord so you call them all and keep calling until you get the real story.

They are rude/complain before even moving in. If a tenant is rude or complains often before moving into the unit, chances are it will only get worse. Prospective tenants are usually on their best behavior, so if a person exhibits poor manners from the get-go, you will have a very long road ahead of you if you decide to rent to them. This tenant will likely treat everyone including you, fellow tenants, neighbors and repairmen- with the same disregard, making your life and the lives of everyone around them miserable. You risk having other tenants move out, complaints from neighbors and 3 A.M. phone calls just to tell you they blew a light out in their bathroom. Save yourself the hassle and avoid this tenant!

They have bad credit. You want a tenant with a solid history of being financially responsible and paying their bills on time. So once you’ve verified their income, spoken to their employer and pulled their credit check make sure the picture is singing the right tune.

They have too many people in the family or friends/relatives they plan to have living with them. To follow federal fair housing rules you must ensure this tenant will only allow a max of two people per bedroom. If you get a sense that this applicant has more people lurking around for a place to crash than your unit will allow ask them upfront and then make the call on if you believe their answer or not. If your gut says no, go with it.

At the end of the day your instinct will tell you whether this is the right tenant for your property. Remember to do your thorough background check and screening before accepting a rental deposit to hold a unit or offering the unit to the prospective tenant. This gives you the time you need to make the right decision. 

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