Warning Signs of a Bad Tenant

As a landlord or property manager, it’s your responsibility to find qualified tenants who will pay the rent on time and treat your property with respect.

And the only way to do that is to put each potential tenant through a rigid screening process.

That screening process usually begins with a rental application, but it certainly doesn’t stop there. From running a credit check to checking references, there are a lot of steps you need to take to make sure that you find the best tenant.

If you’re getting ready to rent your apartment or house, here are the five warning signs to watch for in the tenant screening process.

1. Proven Criminal History

Asking a potential tenant to consent to a background check isn’t enough. You actually have to run the background check and review it to make sure that there are no red flags.

A criminal background check screens for misdemeanor and felony convictions, as well as arrest records. It will also show if the individual has any sexual offenses or active warrants.

There may be some misdemeanors you are willing to forgive, but you should never overlook serious, violent crimes. This could create an unsafe environment or cause your current occupants to want to move out.

Ask yourself this:

Will your current tenants want to live next to a registered sex offender?

Probably not.

Renting to someone with a violent criminal history poses another threat, as well. Should you ever have to evict the person, you could put yourself in serious danger.

2. Bad Credit History

Never, ever rent to anyone without doing a credit check first. If your tenant has a bad credit history, there’s a good chance that you’ll have to chase them down to collect the rent.

Even if someone has a briefcase full of cash and offers to pay you several months of rent upfront, don’t agree. A bad credit score is an indication that someone is not responsible.

And aside from a violent criminal, an irresponsible tenant is the worst kind you can have.

Take the time to run a credit history report and know what numbers to look for.

According to Experian, a good credit score is one above 670. A credit score between 580 and 669 is considered fair. A credit score lower than 580 is poor.

A bad credit score means that someone has trouble paying their bills. And that means they’re likely to have trouble paying their rent. If you do decide to lease your property to someone with bad credit, insist that they have a co-signer at the very least.

3. Inconsistent Employment History

Asking for a tenant’s employment history can help you determine two things:

If they are responsible and if they can afford the rent.

Have your applicants provide you with the names and dates of their last two employers. Avoid tenants that have long gaps in employment, have only worked temporary jobs, or have a tendency to jump from job to job every few months. These can all be indicators that the person is unreliable.

If they don’t have any work history at all, they probably also don’t have income. That’s a big red flag.

Again, you can always insist that they sign their lease with a co-signer who will take responsibility for the rent if they fail to pay it.

4. Poor Rental History

Good tenants don’t get evicted. If you come across an applicant who has prior evictions on their record, avoid them at all costs.

Ask your potential renter how long they lived at their last place and why they left. If they move to a different apartment every single year, it could be a sign that they are difficult to get along with.

Also, ask if they can provide references from previous landlords. If they have a former landlord that is willing to vouch for them, that’s a great sign that they’re a good tenant. If they have a poor rental history or can’t give you any personal references, that’s a big negative.

Keep in mind that some renters may be on a hunt for their first apartment, so don’t hold that against them. A clean background check, a good credit score, and a steady job are much more important criteria.

5. Unwillingness to Provide You With Information

You’ll need to ask a lot of questions during the screening process, so be wary of anyone that seems unwilling to provide you with info.

If someone is hesitant to give you their social security number or consent to a background check, they may be hiding something.

On the other hand, providing you with incomplete or inaccurate information is just as much of a red flag. This could be an indication that the tenant might be trying to delay the background check process.

Honest, reputable people who have nothing to hide will give you the information you need.

In addition, make sure that you check photo IDs as well. It’s important to verify that the person is actually who they claim to be. Do your due diligence so that you know exactly who you’re renting to before you hand them a lease and turn over the keys.

As a landlord or a property manager, an empty unit means you’re losing money. But there’s one thing even worse than losing money: leasing to a bad tenant.

Before you rent your empty apartment to a tenant, look for these warning signs:

  • Prior criminal convictions and arrests
  • A bad credit score
  • An inconsistent employment record
  • A history of prior evictions
  • Any unwillingness to provide you with information or consent to a background check

When looking for a new tenant, you need to protect your property and your self-interests at all times. Word of mouth referrals can be helpful, but don’t rely on them alone.

And while you may have to go a few weeks without a tenant, be firm in your selection process. Having a bad occupant is always worse than having none at all!

Author bio:
Adam Jernigan is the founder of The Home Blog, an apartment and home-organization publication focused on making home a place that you cherish.