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10 Warning Signs A Tenant Might Give You Issues

By Mark Walker | October 5, 2019

Investing in a rental property is a great way to make passive income, but it comes with its fair share of risks and difficulties. The key to finding a highly great renter is at the very beginning, in your screening process with your possible tenants.

There’s no limit to how careful one must be when screening tenants, learning everything possible about their background and character to ensure your property or building will be safe in their company. After all, no tenant at all is a much better alternative to a con-artist or a criminal who could completely destroy your asset. 
But that’s the thing, knowing the signs to watch out for when screening your tenants is not always easy. A lot of folks can seem like clean and upstanding people, but turn out to be less than their appearances. Others will use tricks to avoid letting you in on their unflattering backgrounds, slyly working their way to signing a lease before you get to know who they really are.

Tenancy agreement

If you read ahead, you’ll find the 10 warning signs a tenant might give you issues, so you can know what signs to look for before letting them sign. 

1. Criminal Records

Conducting a criminal background check is a very important first step in your screening process. Renting to individuals with a criminal record can be a bit unnerving, finding out if they have one will be a high priority for you as a landlord. Of course, taking into context what kind of crimes they committed is probably worthwhile too. Someone who got arrested for shoplifting as a teen might not be as dubious as a guy who just got out of jail from his armed robbery sentence. 

2. Vagabonds 

Also called “apartment hoppers”, folks who change addresses frequently probably aren’t doing it for the best of reasons. They might be a rowdy character who doesn’t get along well with other tenants or might be someone who frequently fails to pay their rent. In either case, people who can’t settle down aren’t sure to be good tenants. Use their references to find a former landlord and inquire into their behaviours further.

3. Rushing the Process 

It’s pretty normal to want to move quickly, and with old leases running out there can be some fair reasons for that too. Yet, an overly rushy potential tenant could imply some less than savoury things. They could be an apartment hopper, or they could be someone who’s been evicted and needs a new place fast. If you know anything about the costs and difficulties evictions bring with them, you’ll want to careful about people like that.

4. Currently Unemployed

Another item that comes with context, unemployment isn’t always a sign of a bad tenant. It could be someone who’s just come to town and is getting adjusted, which is a fair and realistic scenario. Still, you’re without a guarantee the tenant will find work, and inquiring with both the tenant and their former employers will give you important insight into the truth about their employment situation. 

5. Skipping the Screening Process

Sometimes potential tenants will ask to skip your screening process and get straight to the lease, but you should probably never do this. In a likely case, they will have something of importance they’re hiding, and it limits you in your ability to run proper checks on these individuals. Never tie your own arms behind your back. 

6. Failing to Fill Out the Application: Missing or Bad Info 

If the potential tenant leaves information blank it should raise questions that you should ask them. Additionally, if the information they give you during an interview is contradictory to what’s put on the application, you should carefully weigh that fact when considering them as a potential tenant. It could be clumsiness, it could be deceit, but neither are good things for a landlord. 

7. Wanting to take the Application Home

They might ask if they can take the application home, which you should not let them do, and should consider against them in deciding to accept them or not as tenants. Taking the application home is at best a sign they’re highly disorganized and don’t have their information in place. At worst, they might be considering how to falsify their info to make their application seem more appealing. 

8. Dubious References

References are a major source of information for you to check your potential tenant. An application that lacks them is probably not a good sign and greatly limits your ability to check out the person’s info. They might also provide references with limited knowledge about the person, or references who can’t answer your questions. 

9. Bad Credit and Low Income

Bad credit should be warning sign number one! People with bad credit are often late on payments, and that’s pretty unattractive for you as their landlord. Additionally, their income should be at least three times what rent costs. 

 10. Offering you a Copy of their Credit Report

This little trick can seem nice and organized, but it can also be a means to drop your guard against new and relevant info. If a potential tenant provides you with their own copy of their credit report, it might be outdated and missing details. In some cases however, this might be a well-meaning and organized person who’s just overcompensating. Simply inform you’ll perform any background checks on your own. 

Mark Walker is a third generation Realtor that still remembers when the MLS was a catalogue and C21 Realtors really wore gold blazers.
Real estate has been his passion for close to two decades. He started out in real estate as an investor and grew a real estate portfolio of over 50 properties. His other passion is people... He decided to combine these two passions and transition from an investor to also becoming a realtor.
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