If you’re a landlord that’s suffered at the hands of tenants, then it’s quite probable you ignored the red flags that they came bearing. However, you are not alone. A number of landlords routinely skip or waive the tenant screening process in order to get their rentals occupied faster or simply because they were too naive. More often than not, bad tenants are at the root of every problem a landlord faces, so it’s imperative you keep your eyes, ears and nose peeled for all signs of trouble.
You might be a landlord who follows the rulebook on tenant screening, doing the customary third party credit check, verification of references and background checks for criminal activity. However, these checks will not necessarily reveal the temperament of the applicant, which can only be understood by observing their habits, body language and choice of words.
Without further ado, here are 25 common red flags that you must look out for when you meet a potential tenant, show them around your property and sign a lease with them.
Wants To Pay In Cash: If an applicant insists on paying either the bond or the rent in cash that is a major indication of trouble. In most cases, the money is illegal and gained from criminal activity. This could also mean that they get paid in cash at work, which would be the case if they’re temporarily or illegally employed.
Is Self-Employed: If a person claims to be self-employed, do the due diligence to find out if their business is established enough to support them. Many landlords realize too late that the applicant was speaking in the future tense.
Asks If There Are Payment Plans: If an applicant asks you if they can pay the bond in installments, then they’re clearly not yet financially equipped to pay rent on time. Firmly refuse such requests unless you don’t mind not receiving your bond money.
Is a Glib Talker With A Sob Story: One of the first ways a bad tenant reveals themselves is by trying to fast talk you into waiving off your rental policies. These are people who come prepared with a sad story that depicts them as the victim, aimed at gaining your sympathy. Avoid, by a long distance, any applicant who wants to smooth talk you into hurrying through your set screening process.
Owns Objectionable Pets: If an applicant is evasive about his pets, their types and breeds then that is a tenant you’re better off without. Particularly, if your tenant owns large or aggressive breeds of dogs, then that by itself is a red flag that you should steer clear of. Not only does an aggressive breed pose a threat to the lives of your other tenants, they’re also generally owned by people who like “riskier” lifestyles – the kind of people you want to avoid.
Is In A Hurry To Move In: When an applicant is visibly disinterested in your property or its condition and maintenance, but appears very eager to move in as soon as possible, you should be on the alert. Why are they in such a hurry to move in? What are they getting away from? If you’re planning to go ahead with such an applicant, make sure you carry out all the steps in your screening process before they move-in. It might mean lots of work in a very short span of time, but you will thank yourself later.
Fails to Complete Application Form: While it’s quite possible your potential tenant might have physical difficulties in reading and filling out a form, you must be on the lookout for others who refuse to complete the form; hesitate to provide personal information; or worse, argue with you about details requested in the form. If they do, then it’s time to move on.
Jumps Ship Too Often: If a person’s employment history reveals that they keep switching jobs without acceptable reasons, then you need to steer clear of such tenants. They might just as easily put your property back on the market by vacating real quick after quitting yet another job.
Brings A Crowd To The Inspection: If a potential tenant brings an entire crew of friends, family and well-wishers just to check out your rental, then here’s someone who’s clearly not used to be being independent or calling the shots for themselves. While it’s honestly none of your business, it could become a problem if they fail to pay rent on time or keep complaining about even the smallest issues – such people are invariably disorganized and cannot handle responsibility well.
Reeks of Alcohol, Tobacco or Weed: If a person comes to meet you mostly with alcohol, tobacco or weed on his breath then it’s time to say goodbye. It’s a clear indication that the applicant is in no way going to keep these substances away from the house – especially weed and cigarettes which leave lingering smells behind.
Tries To Sway You With Money: If a person offers to pay a higher bond; six months’ rent in advance; or, a higher monthly rent, do not be swayed by the extra dollars. They may be trying to surpass other better suited applicants, trying to cloud your judgment with money. Or, they may be paying you from their savings which might run dry soon and leave you hanging for the next month’s rent. So don’t skip the step of checking their bank account statements to ensure their capacity to pay rent in the future.
Worries About Fire And Smoke: If an applicant asks too many questions about the smoke detectors and is too interested in checking out the smoke detectors, then you need to stay alert. Are they just double-checking the safety measures of your rental or are they worried about getting caught for smoking inside the property or worse, setting of a fire with a stray cigarette?
Argues With Their Spouse Openly: If a couple can’t keep it together in public and breaks out into an open argument during the inspection, then they’re probably not going to be pleasant with each other once your rental becomes their home either. One of the most common complaints landlords hear from tenants (at multifamily properties) is about a neighbor who is too loud and argumentative. So, avoid such people to keep your existing tenants at peace.
Is Personally Untidy: If an applicant walks into the inspection looking untidy, then that says a lot about how they will treat their home too. Although there’s no need for an applicant to come dressed in formals, you need to beware of those who turn up in dirty, ripped clothes that look like they’ve not been taken off for a long time. People who lack in personal hygiene cannot be expected to maintain your property’s cleanliness.
Rides A Car That Is Filthy: A person’s car and it’s cleanliness is an extension of themselves. So, when an applicant walks in for an inspection, make sure you discreetly check out their car and its condition because it will reveal a lot about how they will care for your property too.
To Be Continued…