Screen Bad Tenants Before They Do Any Damage

Lack of income for the property

Hopes springs eternal for some candidates as they juggle multiple bills but want to get into their dream property. Set standards for needed income, or face the possibility of chronically late rent payments. The recommendated income:rent ratio is 3:1 or higher.

A dangerous criminal history

Always check an applicant’s criminal history and avoid anyone with a violent past, or crimes that could damage your property. That puts you and your property at immediate risk, as you may be sued for subsequent injuries, or held to account for drug or other criminal activities on the property. Always do tenant criminal background check.

Prior eviction

This applicant may as well be wearing a sign that says, “I don’t care about ripping you off.” This is someone who defaulted on their lease, but would not make good on it by moving out voluntarily. Evictions kill profits, and you can’t afford to take the risk. Landlord be aware, eviction fees start from $700.

Bad credit

Always check the tenant’s credit history to see how they manage their money. Many landlords set a standard score threshold, or, you could look for bad signs like late payment history. However, there are many tenants whose credit score were damaged due to foreclosure or short sale of their homes. You need to make your judgement call.

Incomplete application

Someone who won’t fill out the complete rental application should be turned away. It’s a sign of false identity, a bad history, or just plain apathy. Either way, this is not the right applicant for you.

The applicant is needy, demanding

If your very first interactions with this tenant leave you wanting to pull out your hair, just imagine what it will be like when they have a legal right to the property.  Save yourself the headaches.

The references are negative or defensive

Read between the lines when a reference has little to say about the candidate, so long as that information is relevant to the rental relationship. Be specific about questions you ask other landlords. Pin them down about potential problems that may be repeated.

Applicant is moving in the middle of current lease

If the rental application shows the applicant is looking for a place well in advance of their expected lease termination, this may be someone who will repeat the pattern. Find out more before you get into trouble.

The applicant is not likely to follow your rules

If you smell cigarette smoke on a candidate who is renting a non-smoking unit, or the applicant is covered in cat hair but swears they don’t own a pet, you have a problem. Casual liars make bad tenants.

Too many occupants

You have to follow the law when it comes to local zoning. So do the tenants. Be on guard for the bait-and-switch — a tenant who rents in their name, then moves in all of their friends. Speak with other landlords, and apply common sense. A word of caution: don’t reject families with children on occupancy unless you are sure you have met the standards of the Fair Housing Act and AZ discrimination laws.

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