Finding good tenants is key to establishing a consistent, reliable rental income. Conversely, even one bad tenant can cause you tremendous headaches at best and significant financial loss at worst. Dealing with consistent late payments, complaints from other tenants, and even property destruction can be enough to make you regret becoming a landlord.
Fortunately, there are usually a few telltale “warning signs” that can let you know what kind of person you’re dealing with before you rent to them—and you can easily detect these red flags during the tenant screening process. Here are five rental applicant red flags to watch for.
Rental Applicant Red Flags
If someone has trouble paying their bills on time, they’re probably going to have trouble paying their rent on time. People who have lower credit scores aren’t automatically a high risk—after all, most everyone has dealt with some form of temporary hardship, and negative marks can stay on a person’s report for up to seven years. But if you pull a credit report and see recent late payments, bankruptcies, judgments, or a credit score below 600, this is a definite rental applicant red flag.
If a prospective tenant has a history of prior evictions, that’s a huge red flag. There are several ways to find out if a person has been evicted, including court judgments on the credit report and running a rental history background check. Renting to someone with an eviction history could be a nightmare waiting to happen—especially if you’re currently under an eviction moratorium due to the pandemic. Tread carefully.
A person with a criminal history is also a risk as a prospective tenant. Running a background check will reveal any arrests or convictions—but feel free to look deeper as you screen. If your candidate’s only mark is an arrest seven years ago for disturbing the peace at a frat party, the risk is much lower than someone with multiple convictions for DUI or domestic violence. At best, someone prone to criminal behavior could wreak havoc in your home or with the neighbors.
Sketchy Proof of Income
A good prospective tenant should demonstrate that they make enough money (consistently) to afford the rent. If their employment history is scattered, incomplete, or has too many gaps—or if they are currently unemployed—that’s a red flag. The burden of proof is on them to demonstrate they can pay rent. Don’t rent to them unless you’re sure they can.
False Information on Application
Landlord recommendations that seem too good to be true? Previous addresses that don’t exist? Employers that don’t remember the tenant ever working there? These are all huge warning signs. A landlord-tenant relationship is built on trust, and you can’t trust someone who lies on their application—period. Follow through and verify that the information they’re giving you is correct.
ScreenRenters gives landlords a free, easy way to check out rental applicant red flags. Contact us to learn more about how we can help.