Most landlords and rental property owners will at some point be faced with a bad tenant, or have horror stories to share about other owners who have been put through the ringer by a less than ideal renter.
While there is no surefire secret to avoiding bad tenants altogether, there are some property management rules that you can follow to lower the likelihood that you will experience this unfavorable situation. In addition to knowing and following all fair housing laws and rules — and properly screening all of your potential renters — here are six things you can do to hopefully avoid your own horror stories.
1. Meet Them & Trust Your Instincts
We recently had a perspective tenant fill out an application and the leasing agent suspected that something was wrong. When we asked if she had any past evictions the answer was no. We did a full credit check and checked the local courts and she had no evictions on her record. We then called her landlord references and could tell immediately that the person was probably not a landlord. We waited a few days and checked the courts again. This time the eviction was on her record. She was in the process of an eviction and if our leasing agent did not trust his instincts we would have possibly had a poor tenant.
Also be cautious of a perspective tenant that has nothing but bad things to say about their previous landlord. In some cases they may be accurate but most landlords do a good job. In addition, if the perspective tenant seems in too much of a hurry to hand you cash so they can move right in — then often this person was just served a 24 hour notice to vacate.
2. Run Criminal Background & National Credit Checks
Even in lower socioeconomic areas this will be some of the best money you spend. No one wants to rent to the person who has had three evictions in the last year. You may even want to check the local courts first. If you find a problem there you can save money on the credit report.
3. Call Their Last Two Landlords
We have found landlords to be very honest. The reason you want to check the last two is the current landlord may be happy to get rid of them. However, for the most part, landlords tend to be good and honest people.
4. Always Verify Income
This is easy to do and will always be a good indicator of things to come.
5. Use Smart Advertising
Get your units rented quickly to qualified tenants.
6. Treat Your Tenants Like Valuable Customers
And try to keep them for a long time. Finding good tenants is only the first step to keeping them. If you treat a tenant well — not only will they stay — they will refer friends and relatives to you. Plus, most good tenants will not recommend a bad tenant since they do not want to jeopardize their own situation by sending you a lemon.