When choosing a new tenant, it can be difficult to navigate the information overload that confronts you. You must analyze each tenant's work history, references, number of occupants, and the like. Here are five red flags that can act as shortcuts, and weed out some potentially problematic renters. While these aren’t 100 percent accurate all of the time, they will save you from headaches most of the time! If your prospect does any of these things, take a step back and ask yourself, is it worth the risk?
1. Tries to convince you not to run their credit or doesn’t want to fill out the application – Always require a written application that includes all of the adult residents. You may hear excuses like, “I don't want to get an inquiry on my credit,” or “Here is a credit report that I ran myself last month.” It’s better to be safe than sorry, and if a tenant is serious and has nothing to hide, they will let you run their credit without any hassle.
2. Shows up very late or not at all with no courtesy call – Emergencies happen, but if they are just being inconsiderate, then why would they be a considerate tenant in the future or pay the rent on time? Try asking the applicant to call you an hour before the showing just to confirm the appointment. Will they follow a simple direction and call you? Ultimately, if they're more than 15 minutes late and don't call or text, they will plant seeds of doubt about their ability to keep commitments.
3. The number of occupants keep growing as the conversation proceeds – When you ask them how many people will be living in this unit, it should be very clear. Two, three, or four? What about significant others, children, and other family members? Often you will talk to people who start off looking for a place for two people, but before you know it that number doubles or triples.e. Maybe you have experienced a conversation that progresses like this: "It's just me and my wife. Well, actually, my son will stay with us, but it’s only over the summer, and his girlfriend may come. Oh yeah, also my grandkids will spend weekends here, and my daughter will stay but only every other day.." Even if your unit can legally accommodate that many people, honesty is an important part of the landlord-tenant relationship.
4. Their story doesn't match up with their application – When you interview applicants, be informal and ask questions, but listening is more important. Let them talk and learn as much as you can. If their written application doesn't match what they are telling you, something isn't right.
5. Wanting to seal the deal right now with cash, and no paperwork – When it’s too good to be true, it probably is. Some people will offer you two months’ rent in cash right now if you give them the unit, no questions asked. Always go through your application process and don't cheat because you are blinded by the money in hand! This is often a tactic used by people with a history of eviction.
While it's impossible to be certain about any one applicant, staying alert for these five red flags will certainly increase your chances of steering clear of troublesome tenants. For more info on tenant selection, check out my ebook here How to Find Tenants that will PAY, STAY, and OBEY: A Practical Guide for Simply and Effectively Screening Tenants for Your Residential Rental Unit