This is a follow up to the article, 5 Prospective Tenant Red Flags to watch out for. Here are five additional situations to look for when you are screening tenants that could spell trouble in the future. Remember that it is illegal to deny an applicant housing if they are a member of a protected class based on the Federal Fair Housing Act, or an additional class that is protected in your state.
Attempt to Negotiate Security Deposit Payment
If a prospective tenant does not have the entire amount of the requested security deposit available before move in, you should not rent to them. A tenant who attempts to negotiate the security deposit payment or tries to get you to agree to let them pay you in installments is a bad idea because you will most likely never see this money. Security deposits are a vital protection for landlords, so not collecting the proper amount up front can leave you financially vulnerable if a tenant breaks their lease, violates the terms of their lease or causes damage.
They Move/Change Jobs Often
Prospective tenants who constantly move will likely continue that pattern. Your goal as a landlord is to have the fewest vacancies possible and by renting to someone who will be gone in a year or even worse, in three months, you are not giving yourself a great possibility of success. This may not be such an issue for landlords who have hundreds of units, but for those who only have a handful of tenants, even a one month vacancy can take a large chunk out of any potential earnings or even cause a net loss for the month.
Similarly, if a tenant changes jobs often, there is a chance they will be unable to meet their monthly mortgage payment if they are between jobs. Tenants who change jobs often may also have to relocate for work, which would leave you without a tenant months earlier than expected.
So, for landlords with less than 20 units, it is very important to look for tenants who have a consistent lifestyle to help reduce the risk of vacancies and nonpayment.
They Change Their Story
If a prospective tenant told you one thing when you prescreened them over the phone, but in person told you something else, you should proceed with caution. For example, if the prospective tenant told you over the phone that five people would be living in the apartment, but when you meet with them in person, they tell you only three people will be living there, you should heavily pursue the issue. There is a chance they may try to sneak the two other people into the apartment even though they have not been included on the lease, which could pose liability issues for you.
Another example would be a tenant who at first claims they are relocating to the area because of a job transfer, but later they tell you they are moving from down the street because they need more room. A tenant that feels the need to lie in response to seemingly harmless questions is obviously trying to hide something. You want to look for a tenant with a consistent story.
They Are Rude/Complain
If a tenant is rude or complains often before moving into the unit, chances are it will only get worse. Prospective tenants are usually on their best behavior, so if a person exhibits poor manners from the get-go, you will have a very long road ahead of you if you decide to rent to them.
This tenant will likely treat everyone- you, fellow tenants, neighbors, repairmen- with the same disregard, making your life and the lives of everyone around them miserable. You risk having other tenants move out, complaints from neighbors and 3 A.M. phone calls just to tell you they blew a light out out in their bathroom.
Renting to Roommates
While this is not necessarily a deal-breaker, it is a situation that often goes awry. You are basically renting one apartment to two separate households. You are relying on two separate incomes and personality types to make one monthly rent payment. As is often the case, the roommates will get into an argument and one will move out, leaving the other to pay the entire rent. Being unable to afford the monthly rental payment on their own, the other tenant will often have to break their lease and move out as well, leaving you with a vacancy- a landlord’s worst enemy.
Renting to roommates may not be such an issue if your rental property is located near a college town, where it is much easier to quickly find a replacement roommate.