By now you probably know that carefully screening rental applicants can save you lots of headache and stress down the road, but if you’ve had some good luck lately with finding excellent tenants, you may be getting a bit lax in your applicant screening process.

That’s why it’s worth repeating some of the big red flags that landlords encounter when screening applicants for their rental properties. Discovering an applicant is deceiving you is much better than learning it once the lease agreement has been signed.

5 Red Flags for Landlords

Here are 5 red flags that landlords should always take notice of when screening applicants:

Red Flag #1: No Current Address

If an applicant can’t verify their address with a utility bill or other identifying documentation, this is a big red flag. Usually, applicants do this when they are crashing with friends or family members or else they are currently in the eviction process with their current landlord and don’t want you contacting them. While it isn’t the case every time, if this red flag appears along with others, it’s worth a closer look.

Red Flag #2: Paying All Cash

If an applicant is flashing a lot of cash and says they would rather deal in cash than anything else, it could be a big red flag. While it’s not true in all cases, people who deal in cash and can’t provide a bank account or similar may have something to hide, like they are working under the table and can’t verify their income, or they might be avoiding garnishments from another entity. In a worst case scenario, it could mean they are engaging in criminal activity.

Red Flag #3: No Photo ID

Professional tenants, or those who know how to scam the system, often engage in identity theft in order to get into an apartment. They will use someone else’s name and good credit to secure the rental. It may even be that their friend or relative has given them permission to scam you. The easiest way to discover this kind of fraud is for you to ask for photo ID and verify they are indeed who they say they are.

Red Flag #4: Mistakes on the Application

If you are doing a good background check and you are encountering more than a reasonable amount of mistakes, pay close attention. Whether its mistakes on phone numbers or addresses, wrong dates for employment or rentals or something else, it could mean the applicant is trying to hide something. While innocent mistakes are nothing to get suspicious about, too many on a single application should raise your alert level.

Red Flag #5: Pushy Applicants

An applicant who is worried that you will find something bad will usually push you to make a decision or give some kind of urgent reason for why they need to move in right away. An experienced applicant knows that a good background check takes time and should be in a good enough situation currently to await the proper process. Pushy applicants also show that they don’t respect your time or your rules, so they will most likely be the type of tenant who does the same.

Sooner is Better than Later

It should be your top goal to catch dishonest applicants during the screening process and before they become tenants. Failing to do a proper tenant screening can result in significant loss of income due to late or unpaid rent, property damages, stress with other tenants, problems with the police, and time, stress and effort for an eviction process. Don’t let a professional tenant scam you for free rent for a few months because they know how to play the system. Instead, be thorough in your screening and weed out those bad applicants up front.

Do you have any red flags to add? Please share this article and let us know your experiences in the comments below.

About the author

I started RentPrep in 2007 and our mission is to pull the stress out of being a landlord.

We do this by helping you find the best tenant and providing educational resources along the way.

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