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How to spot a potential problem tenant during screening

How to spot a potential problem tenant during screening

Any landlord wishes to have a roster of ideal tenants who pay on time and follow the basic rules and regulations. Alas, the reality on the ground is that encountering problematic ones is difficult to avoid, if not impossible.

The challenge then is to accurately sort out the good tenants from the bad ones. Below are several tips that both new and veteran landlords can use when screening tenant applicants.

Signs that indicate a potential problem tenant

The obvious signs

All property owners have access to key information in tenant screening reports. The latter provides a number of ways to spot the clear signs of a problem tenant:

  • Past criminal records. The landlord may reject a tenant application on the basis of a previous record of serious crimes; more so, if the applicant has committed property-related crimes. However, before rejecting their application outright, the landlord must first review the type and severity of the criminal offense, how recently the act was committed, and if the person was actually convicted. Note that denying housing to anyone on the basis of a criminal record is discriminatory and punishable by law, according to the Fair Housing Act.
  • Abysmal credit history. A tenant applicant who fails to show a good payment track record may be a problem later on. Such a tenant may keep asking for extensions whenever monthly rent is due. As a landlord, you can check a potential tenant’s credit reports to ensure that you won’t need to keep hounding them every month.
  • Multiple evictions in the past few years. You can also examine an applicant’s eviction history. If you find that they’ve been bouncing around a number of times within a short span of time, there must be a reason why they can’t seem to stay in one place for too long. That said, try to ask them for their side of the story. They may have some evictions in their record due to a number of valid reasons.

The not-so-obvious signs

  • Negative comments about the tenant screening process. In general, tenants must have some degree of understanding of the need for screening applicants. However, those with something to conceal from their potential landlord might make subtle complaints about the process. It could be nothing at all, but landlords can investigate further if a tenant’s comments or statements seem suspicious.
  • Too many instances of moving in and out of rental properties. A potential tenant with extensive moving history within a short time period may be cause for concern. While they may not have been evicted, there could be an underlying reason why they’ve been frequently moving in the past.
  • You feel uncomfortable around a particular tenant. Even after complying and passing all the necessary background checks, a potential tenant may still feel off to you. It’s like a sixth sense that you develop over time.
    For instance, an applicant exhibiting bad manners may cause you problems in future interactions. An applicant tenant who keeps checking and asking about smoke detectors may be prepared to violate “no smoking” rules around the property.
  • Fresh graduates as potential tenants. Fresh graduates who are new to renting may not be stable enough to pay rent on time. Ask them if they are still receiving financial support from their parents for living expenses. If that’s not the case, then you may need to think twice about approving their application.

However, if they can make a generally good impression on you and prove that they have a promising job lined up, they might turn out to be reliable tenants, after all.

Know what other landlords think about a new tenant

When in doubt, you can always ask a tenant to provide references from previous landlords. Their feedback on the potential tenant can give you a fairly good glimpse into their character. You’ll learn if a potential tenant can pay rent on time and if they can take good care of other people’s property, and so on.

If they don’t have previous landlords, ask them about their current living situation and why they are interested in renting your property. You can learn a lot just by asking them simple questions about their background.

For further assistance on tenant screening and other property management tasks, Sundance Property Management is here to help. Whether you’re a new or an experienced landlord, we always aim to deliver exceptional service — as we’ve always done for over 20 years.

Call us at 513.489.3363 or send an email to info(at)sdpmi(dotted)com. You may also click here for inquiries.