Everyone wants a tenant who pays their rent on time and is respectful of the rental property—but sometimes you might need to go through several applicants before you find the right fit. Although tenant screening is the best way to quickly eliminate problematic applicants, there are some red flags that can also help you avoid choosing a bad tenant. Here are ten things you should keep an eye out for during the application process. Please note this is not intended as legal advice, but for information only. Laws may vary depending on your location.
- Not Enough Income
It may feel invasive to ask applicants for proof of income, but it’s necessary to ensure they make enough money to pay rent consistently and on time. Renting to someone who doesn’t have enough income is a recipe for disaster—eventually, you might have to deal with nonpayment issues or eviction. Ideally, a tenant should make 2.5 to 3 times the cost of the rent.
- The Applicant is Currently Unemployed
Although you may be tempted to help someone who’s down on their luck, an applicant without a job won’t be able to pay rent. Even if they say they’re working on getting a job, you risk dealing with nonpayment issues if you rent to them.
- A Bad Credit Score
A bad credit score is a definite red flag. First, it shows that the applicant defaulted on their debt or rent payments at some point. It also indicates they may default again on future payments. However, if the applicant’s credit score is low and they seem like an otherwise good candidate, it’s worth finding out whether there were any extenuating circumstances that could have lowered their score before making a decision.
- A Prior Eviction
A prior eviction is one of the biggest tenant red flags. Although there could be special circumstances that led to the eviction, especially if it took place during the height of the pandemic, evictions are often an indicator of nonpayment of rent, criminal behavior, or property damage. As with a bad credit score, it’s worth getting more details about the eviction from the tenant—and the previous landlord, if possible.
- A Criminal Record
Not all criminal records are necessarily a problem, but if the applicant has been arrested for crimes like theft, domestic violence, or DUIs, it’s best to choose another applicant. Keep in mind, however, that some states and local laws prohibit the use of criminal records in rental decisions.
- Fake References
Tenants who have had serious issues with past landlords aren’t likely to ask them for a reference—instead, they may ask a friend or family member to pose as their previous landlord. If the reference seems too good to be true, you may be dealing with a scammer. Make sure to always follow up with previous landlords and ask questions only they would know, like:
- Did the applicant always pay their rent on time?
- Did they receive their whole security deposit back when they moved?
- What were the circumstances of their lease termination? Was it terminated early?
- Lying on Their Application
If the applicant lies on their application, such as using fake references or false employment history, this is a big red flag that they’re not trustworthy.
- An Incomplete Application
If an applicant doesn’t fill out the entire rental application, they may be uncomfortable with the information needed in some of the sections. An applicant who doesn’t have anything to hide will be happy to complete the application and provide information about their employment, credit, and references.
- High Maintenance
If the applicant already seems high maintenance, they’re likely to be even worse once they become a tenant; they may become demanding or difficult to deal with over time. In this case, you may want to save yourself the headache and select another applicant.
- They Want to Move in Quickly
If the applicant wants to move in right away, you may be tempted to say yes—especially if your rental has been vacant for a long time. There could be valid reasons they want to move in quickly; maybe they’ve recently relocated for a job opportunity. However, it’s also possible that they left their previous rental without notice. It’s worth finding out why they’re so eager to move in before you hand over the keys to your property.
If you’ve noticed any of these red flags during the application process, you may be tempted to deny the applicant right away, but remember to stay compliant with all federal, state, and local laws. You must follow the Fair Housing Act regulations, apply the same screening criteria to every applicant, and provide a legitimate reason why the application was denied if the tenant requests it.
Protect Your Property with Tenant Screening
The first step to making the best rental decision for your property begins with having the right information; our tenant screening services make it to make the most informed decisions for your property. All services are available online 24/7, and we offer the ability to defer the cost of the reports to the applicant. In addition, we conduct tenant verifications on your behalf, saving you time and hassle. For more information on which tenant screening reports would be most beneficial for your properties, visit our services page or feel free to contact us at 800-523-2381.
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