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This list is a glimpse into why tenant screening is so important when it comes to building a quality rental portfolio.
1. They try and get you to lower the rent before they even see the apartment.
This is a sure sign that this tenant can’t really afford the property. Asking before the showing means that the value of the property means little to them, they only care about the cost.
2. They haggle excessively over rent.
Someone agonized over what the rent for that property should be set at. A tenant who haggles excessively isn’t going to have a good professional relationship with the person they pay their rent to.
3. They haggle over deposits and move in fees.
Deposits should be returned if a rental is left in good condition. A person who haggles over their deposit has no intention of leaving their rental in good condition.
4. They examine the smoke alarms very closely.
Indoor smokers who want to hide their sins will often disable or silence smoke alarms in an attempt to avoid detection.
5. They ask if the fire sprinklers ‘actually work.’
This is an important question for some when it comes to insurance. That said, it’s also an important question if you think a stray cigarette is going to set them off.
6. They claim to hear sounds you don’t during the showing.
You know those mysterious sounds they claim to hear? They’ll hear them after they move in too, leading to endless complaints.
7. They reek of weed.
Marijuana is not a subtle aroma. If they don’t notice the smell on themselves when they’re attending a showing with a potential landlord, they won’t notice it when the whole apartment stinks.
8. They’re drunk or tipsy.
They won’t even let you get a tattoo drunk, so it stands to reason that you shouldn’t be signing a lease that way.
9. They yell so loud the neighbors can hear during a conversation.
Some people have volume control issues. At the slightest sign of excitement or despair, they get LOUD. Keep the peace of other tenants in mind.
10. They ask if the screens come out of the windows.
Is this a safety concern? Of course. Does it make it a lot easier to lean out the window to smoke? You betcha. Hint: Tenants willing to toss their torsos out a window for a cigarette will rarely keep up the habit. Eventually, they’ll get lazy and smoke indoors.
11. They ask personal questions about other tenants.
Some questions are appropriate, like ‘Are there pets in the building?’ and ‘Are there children living on the property?’ but others are less appropriate. If a tenant asks about the daily schedules of other tenants, or whether or not the girl downstairs is single, renting to that individual could put current tenants at risk for burglary or worse.
12. They give off that creepy vibe.
We all know not to judge books by their covers, but during a showing, you have little choice in the matter. If being around a tenant makes you uncomfortable, it will likely make your other tenants uncomfortable too.
13. They hate animals (and you’re a pet-friendly property).
If you’re going to be a pet-friendly property, then the other tenants should be friendly towards pets. Other tenants shouldn’t have to worry about the jerk upstairs poisoning their dog.
14. They hate kids (and there are families in the building).
Some people hate kids with a real vehemence that is matched by little else. If you have kids living in the property, don’t rent to someone who’s going to become a scary story for their sleepovers. This will also help you avoid the endless complaints from tenants who can’t stand the pitter-patter of little feet.
15. All of their employment is in the past tense.
If you don’t have a job, it’s hard to pay rent. Unemployment can drag out unexpectedly, so don’t put yourself in the position of having to evict a tenant because their savings ran out.
16. Their self-employment is in the future tense.
Renting to people who have their own business is great. Renting to people who ‘are starting a business’ is less great, because new businesses often need time to grow before they can support anyone.
17. They list their previous landlord as “mom”.
Not ‘Jane Doe’ who happens to be their mother, that can be a sign that they waited to leave home until they were financially secure. But when they write down the word ‘Mom’ you know that they might not be ready to leave the nest.
18. They are related to all of their references.
Their uncle probably thinks they’re amazing. I know my uncles all think I’m the best thing around. For that very reason, they don’t make great references.
19. Their references sound like they might all be the same guy making different voices each time you call.
There’s always that one person who wants to cheat the system. Maybe they even gave each ‘reference’ a different phone number somehow. The point is that if this tenant thought this harebrained scheme would work, imagine what else they’re getting up to. Don’t let them get up to it on your property.
20. They feel the need to ‘test out’ the fire escape.
What are these people planning on setting aflame? What other reasons do they have for needing to make a quick getaway? So many questions, absolutely no answers.
21.They make unpleasant comments about their neighbors before they’re even neighbors.
One of the hardest kinds of tenants to handle is the one who makes everyone living near them miserable (on top of inevitably making you miserable) without actually breaking any rules. The person who makes snide remarks before they even move in will make twice as many once they live there.
22. They seem generally disinterested when it comes to the property.
People who want to rent a property but don’t seem to care much about the place itself are not likely planning to live there. Even if you’re not sure what they are planning to do with the space, it’s unlikely to be anything good.
23. They ask if there are any cops living in the building.
This should be an obvious warning sign. Lots of people are wary of the police without having done anything wrong, lots of people even have good reasons to be, but off-duty officers at home are usually pretty low risk to those types. Criminals, on the other hand, are often paranoid as heck around any cop, off duty or on.
24. They passive-aggressively insult the property, even as they discuss leasing it.
Some tenants will take this route when trying to put you on the defensive. They think they’ll get upgrades and extensions if they act like they’re not happy with the property. Ignore their games and move on to another tenant who doesn’t try to play you.
25. A parent signs the lease, speaks and presumably performs all functions on their behalf.
It’s a good sign when first-time renters have parental support. That said, parents should be on the periphery of all of your transactions, with the tenant running the show.
26. They hide their face from your security cameras.
Is this ever a good sign? If they don’t want evidence they were on your property, then their plans for the property are probably rather unwholesome.
27. Their interest in the coin-op laundry machines is limited to examining the lock on the coin box.
There’s a reason property management companies love laundry cards. Coin-op laundry machines are open to theft, and tenants who feel the need to examine the lock-box aren’t thinking about cycle options.
28. They ask why they have to fill out an application.
Either this person doesn’t understand the process of renting (in which case you can just explain it to them) or they’re trying to hide something they think the application process will reveal.
29. They put off signing things until the very last minute.
People who don’t want to sign things are likely either unprepared for the move or hiding things from you. Either way, it’s not a good sign.
30. They can’t make time to meet you.
Having a place to live is very important. People who can’t find the time to make arrangements for their new home are unlikely to follow through on their lease.
31. They need the apartment immediately.
Many tenants who fear the verification/application process will try and speed through it by requesting a quick move-in date. Make the arrangements if you can, but don’t skip any of the steps you have in place to protect yourself.
32. They get angry over your verification process.
Another manipulation tactic, this time trying to intimidate and bully you into skipping important steps.
33. They claim they paid rent to a fellow tenant who doesn’t seem to exist.
Lots of roommates use this tactic for simplifying rent payment. That said, you should be able to get a hold of the roommate they were paying for verification purposes. If you can’t, they might not exist.
34. They’re reluctant to give you personal information.
The information you’re legally allowed to have so that you can make smart decisions isn’t a large burden. If a tenant doesn’t want to give it to you, something is fishy.
35. Their personal information is inconsistent.
When names, phone numbers and ID numbers never seem to stay the same, someone is being dishonest with you.
36. They resist every step of the verification process.
Renting to a good tenant shouldn’t be a struggle. Anyone who resists you the entire way is hiding something from you.
37. They try to throw money around in an attempt to win favor over other applicants.
Everyone loves money, but some applicants will use it to try and skip verification steps. If your rent and fees are set properly, you’re going to make profit on the property. Don’t let a couple of hundred dollars at the beginning make you choose a bad tenant that will cost you thousands later on.
38. They assume you’ll choose them over other applicants and behave as though the apartment is theirs.
This is another way that potential tenants can try to coerce or bully you into giving them what they want. Remember that if they’ll bulldoze over you during the showing, they’re going to try and do it again and again throughout your professional relationship.
39. They relocate frequently and can’t give you a good reason.
It’s more likely that they won’t give you a reason. Chances are that their frequent relocations are the result of their poor financial or social choices, which means they’ll be a truckload of trouble for you once the lease is signed.
40. All of their past roommates were crazy.
Which is more likely, that this tenant just so happened to live with crazy people each and every time they moved, or that the tenant is simply impossible to live with? (Hint: It’s the latter.)
41. They were ‘unfairly’ kicked out by (multiple) previous roommates.
People with this kind of victim complex have developed it carefully throughout a lifetime of irresponsibility and generally terrible behavior. If you rent to them, you’ll likely regret it.
42. All of their past landlords were incompetent.
There are incompetent landlords out there, but they tend to be in the minority. The likelihood that this tenant encounters them at every turn is very low.
43. All of their past landlords were jerks.
There’s a saying that if you meet one jerk, then you met a jerk. However, if you meet jerks all day then you’re likely the problem.
44. Can’t stop telling you how terrible their current landlord is.
It’s possible they do have a really terrible landlord, but if they can’t stop talking about it then it’s time to move on. Just imagine what they’ll say about you once the lease is up!
45. There are going to be several roommates, but you’ve only met one.
Who are these people? You need to at least meet everyone who will be living on your property. If the tenant doesn’t seem keen for you to meet other roommates, there’s probably a reason.
46. They have pets, but won’t name the number of them.
One cat? Two? Ten? Either this person knows they shouldn’t have as many as they do, or they’ve lost count. Either way, it’s a serious red flag.
47. They have pets, but can’t name the vet clinic they go to.
Most pets need annual medical checkups. If a potential tenant has pets that are well cared for and healthy, they should be able to name their vet clinic.
48. This is the only property they’ve seen.
Smart shoppers shop around. If the tenant is jumping on the very first property they see, they’re likely either desperate or unconcerned with the property itself. Both are bad signs.
49. They’re renting on behalf of a relative, but you’ve never met that relative.
This is common for people with family members who are immigrating soon, but it’s still a good idea to meet the resident prior to signing the lease. If the potential tenant is insistent on signing before you meet the resident, there is serious cause for concern.
50. Showing the property turns into a party with LOTS of people.
Lots of renters bring someone with them to a showing for support and personal safety. That said, a party of ten people is unnecessary and a sign that this person doesn’t do things on their own very well.
51. They show little interest in the condition and upkeep of the property.
There are two possibilities here. Either they don’t plan on living there and they are being dishonest, or they’re simply unconcerned with the condition of the rental and don’t intend to take very good care of it.
52. They litter while on the property.
Rude! If they don’t care where their trash goes now, they won’t care after they move in.
53. They drop cigarette butts in your yard.
Litter that smells like tobacco? No thank you! This person isn’t showing much respect for your property, and they aren’t likely to start after they move in.
54. They want a payment plan for security and pet deposits.
Sometimes money is tight, and that’s understandable. However, if a person isn’t capable of saving up a month’s rent prior to moving in, it’s unlikely they’ll be able to support themselves and pay rent after they move in.
55. They are significantly and consistently late for showings.
It’s unprofessional and it shows that they don’t value your time. That’s not the kind of person you want to have a long-term professional relationship with.
56. They nitpick when it comes to communal areas.
The person who scowls over the leaves in the yard or points out scuffs on the banisters is going to be at least that annoying when they move in. At that point, they’ll actually have the right to comment, and comment they will. Over and over.
57. Their kids run wild during the showing.
If they aren’t controlling their kids while visiting a property that isn’t theirs, they won’t start anytime soon. Kids are twice as wild at home.
58. They argue loudly with their spouse/roommate during a showing.
If they can’t keep it together in front of you, they certainly won’t do it in front of other tenants.
59. They yell and/or curse at their children.
What’s worse than hearing someone verbally abuse their spouse? Hearing them verbally abuse their kids. This is not the tenant you want.
60. None of their references are professional relationships.
Even first-time renters should have a reference that includes co-workers or employers. If they don’t, then they probably don’t have a lot of successful professional relationships, meaning that they might not be a great person to have a professional relationship with.
61. They answer your questions in the most indirect way possible.
When a yes or no question involves a long and drawn out story that never quite provides an answer, you’re in trouble. Explanations are OK, but answers should come first.
62. They clearly don’t take care of themselves.
If they aren’t bothered by their deteriorating health and hygiene, they won’t be bothered when your rental falls apart.
63. They clearly don’t take care of their kids.
This is an even more serious situation. If a person takes care of themselves but their children are a mess, then they’re not going to care about the property. Reject their application (and in alarming cases, call the authorities.)
64. They don’t take off their footwear when you do.
This is a pretty basic sign of respect for another person’s property. Muddy footprints should leave a trail right out the door.
65. They object to a criminal background check.
If they object to it, then they are likely hiding something. A shady past an be fine, but dishonesty regarding that past is a definite red flag.
66. They object to a credit check.
If they have a bad credit history they’ll often try to skip this process before the truth comes out. Be wary.
67. They become extremely demanding when it comes to upgrades and repairs.
As eager as you may be to fill a vacancy, don’t ignore this warning sign. discussing any work you may be planning is a good idea, but tenants who make demands prior to signing a lease are likely to make a lot more during the length of their residency.
68. They’re blatantly racist.
Sometimes it’s hard to pick out racists in a crowd, but sometimes they stick out like sore thumbs. People who hate others for their race will find LOTS of reasons to hate anyone, anywhere, and it can lead to some serious problems in the long run.
69. Their car is a mess.
The way a renter treats their vehicle says a lot of how they will treat your rental. Be wary of someone who throws trash all over their car.
70. They won’t give you specific info about the other people who will be living with them.
This can cause a lot of problems, because either they aren’t sure who will be living with them or they don’t want you to know. Either way, it’s suspicious behavior.
71. They stink.
If a person can’t be bothered to bath, they certainly won’t be bothered over the upkeep and cleanliness of the rental. (If you need to sniff a potential tenant, be discreet. Otherwise they’ll be telling stories about you instead of the other way around.)
72. They need to see if they can get the money together.
If they don’t already have the money together, move on.
73. They pay all deposits and rent in cash.
For some people, this is simply a matter of convenience, but for others, it’s a way of avoiding a paper trail leading to the property they’re renting. This can be a sign of illegal dealings, so be careful.
74. They always have to get back to you on that… and they never do.
Finding a new home is a major life event. If a potential tenant doesn’t take that seriously, you shouldn’t take their application seriously.
75. Their primary focus during the showing is on doors and windows.
Sometimes a showing can be a pretense for casing a building for the purposes of burglary and theft. If a tenant is focused on entryways, exits and security measures without showing interest in the rest of the apartment, hurry them out of there.
76. They’re commuting a long way.
Commuters need homes too, but be weary if they’re going to be far away from their family. Commuters often overestimate their ability to handle long commutes and time away from their spouse and children. When they decide it’s too much, you’ll be left with a sudden vacancy.
77. They’re moving to attend school, but they haven’t been accepted yet.
Some aspiring academics get ahead of themselves in their excitement over their big move. Wait until the acceptance letter comes, then sign the lease.
78. They’re moving for a job they don’t have.
Just like the overexcited students, people can hang all of their hopes on getting their dream job after they move. If they don’t get it, they’ll break the lease and you’ll be out of luck.
79. They’re self-employed but won’t go into detail about what exactly they do.
Self-employed individuals can get a bad rap when it comes to renting, and it’s often undeserved. That said, any self-employed individual who can’t talk your ear off about their chosen business is one you’ll want to avoid.
80. They want to snoop through the current tenant’s belongings.
If they don’t respect the belongings, privacy and property of the current tenant, they’ll likely behave the same way with their neighbors and your rental down the line.
81. They openly attempt to intimidate you.
Some people are bullies. We all learned it on the playground, and later we learned that some bullies never grow up. Don’t put up with intimidating behavior from a potential tenant. It will save you and their potential neighbors a lot of hassle in the future.
82. They ask about services no reasonable adult would expect from a property manager.
There are so many stories floating around when it comes to unreasonable tenants, especially if your property is popular amongst students. Wake up calls, cleaning services, people can make crazy demands. Send them on their way when they do, or you’ll be in for a lot of trouble later.
83. They act like they require adult supervision.
There’s a fine line between childlike enthusiasm and just plain childishness. If the potential tenant acts like they need a babysitter, then you won’t like how they treat your rental.
84. They curse excessively.
Excessive cursing is an annoyance at most, but it can affect how safe other tenants feel in their own homes when their neighbor uses threatening language. It can also indicate a problem controlling their anger, which can lead to a poor professional relationship.
85. They get angry about small and inconsequential things.
People who get worked up over the little things tend to make terrible tenants, especially in apartment buildings that aren’t well soundproofed. If a tenant goes into a rage every time their neighbor’s TV is too loud, the entire building can be affected.
86. They need a place for their band to practice.
There’s a reason that garage bands exist, and it’s that nobody wants them practicing inside their home. This road leads to noise complaints.
87. Their car is filled with trash.
How people take care of their vehicle can often be an indicator of how they’ll take care of their home.
88. They’re dressed in rags.
Nobody needs to wear a suit and tie for a showing, but if they look like they should be riding the rails you may want to pick a different candidate.
89. They touch you without invitation.
People who don’t respect your body won’t respect your rental. On top of that, they may cause problems with other tenants if they get touchy in the future.
90. They have no sense of personal space.
If someone stands too close or doesn’t respect personal space, they’ll have a hard time getting along with their neighbors in multifamily properties.
91. They object to an employment check.
Either they don’t want their employer to know they’re moving or they don’t want you to talk to their employer. Either way, you should be cautious.
92. They ask you to lie or put incorrect information on the lease.
If they can’t sign the lease when it’s legal and honest, they shouldn’t be signing it at all.
93. They never seem to have any kind of ID with them.
People who never have ID on them might not be telling the truth about their identity.
94. When it comes to renovations, their first suggestion is knocking out a wall.
Tenants who immediately jump to big renovations will cause big problems down the road when their demands grow bigger and louder.
95. They suggest you evict other tenants before they’ve even signed the lease.
This person is going to be a problem, with you and with other tenants. They are not worth your time or the stress your current tenants may feel when they have to interact with a neighbor bent on getting them kicked out of their home.
96. They offer to do repairs and other maintenance work in exchange for rent.
It’s a sad thing, but people who want to make these deals are obviously concerned about making rent. As nice as it is for them to be upfront and try to make up for the shortcoming, you may want to avoid leasing to them.
97. They seem more concerned about others seeing in the windows than what you see looking out.
Privacy is an issue in some properties, but one has to question what this person intends to do in this rental that curtains can’t sufficiently hide.
98. They ask about cash reserves on site.
This person is almost definitely looking to steal.
99. You wouldn’t want to live in the same building as them, though you can’t quite put your finger on why.
If you’re looking for a reason to reject a potential tenant because of a gut feeling, here it is. If something seems off and you don’t know why trust your instincts. Your other tenants will thank you.