Perfect 10 — Or Problem Tenant? Part I: The Basics

It’s not always easy to tell which tenants are going to be a hassle.

We’ve all had problem tenants before — people who decided that they could use the walls of their rental for throwing-knife practice, people who routinely revved up their un-muffled motorbikes at 3am, and so on. The only thing you can do is politely ask them to leave and give them enough time to move out…right?

If only it were that easy! Getting tenants out without causing more hassle than it’s worth is a tricky proposition. In this case, an ounce of prevention is worth more than a pound of cure: your best bet is to keep them from getting in by screening your tenants more thoroughly. Here are some of the most basic concerns to keep in mind and the answers you should be looking for:

How complete is their application? If the application they return is missing a lot of critical information, they won’t give you their social security number, or they give you a nonexistent current address, that’s probably a sign of an immediate deal-breaker. Automatically reject anyone who lies on their application!

What is their background like? If they’re a felon or on any sort of watchlist, proceed with extreme caution. There are exceptions to every rule — especially if it’s been a decade or more since their conviction — but it’s generally better to err on the side of ‘no’.

Have they ever been evicted from a rental or broken a lease? If this has happened in the recent past, it’s story time. Get it from them (with any supporting documentation), and then get the previous landlord’s side. If the incident isn’t one you’d care to have happen on your property, sleep on it before you decide to approve them. If there are multiple infractions, the story better be real good!

What type of references do previous landlords give? A red flag from a previous landlord might be explained away, but not likely. Also, be careful as it is not uncommon for bad tenants to have a friend try to pose as their previous landlord. Ask them to confirm the applicant’s info, don’t tell them the info and set it up that all they have to do is say “yes”. You can also be sneaky yourself and test them by giving them false information – if they correct you, then they are probably for real.

If someone’s background doesn’t quite check out, feel free to openly ask them for a letter explaining why not. There are any number of things that may be happening behind the scenes that won’t ever show up on paper unless you ask for the story.

So far, so good, right? Not quite — there’s quite a bit more to cover. We’ll be back next week to talk about financials.

Posted in: 1. Property Owner Blog Posts, Screening Tenants

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