Avoid Nightmare Tenants

There are some tenants who become a landlord’s worst nightmare. It’s our goal in this article to help you successfully avoid troublesome tenants with our expert tenant screening tips.

Learn how to avoid these 6 types of nightmare tenants:

The Tenant Who Never Pays Rent

There are different reasons why a tenant may not pay rent. If you’re lucky, it’s just a minor case of forgetfulness. If you want to avoid a tenant forgetting to pay rent, then make the process as easy as possible. With our online rent payments, it’s easy for tenants to get set up, they can enroll in automatic rent payments, and receive reminder emails. It’s also possible that your tenant could run into financial trouble and won’t be able to afford rent. To avoid this, here are some preventative measures to take:

The first is verifying tenant income and employment. Our comprehensive online rental application allows tenants to upload a document verifying their income. This can be a w-2 form, pay stub, or an offer letter. On the rental application, we also ask for employer history along with contact information. You should contact your tenant’s employer and prior employers. Once you have a tenant’s employer on the phone (or via email), be sure to confirm:

  • The tenant’s position and dates of employment
  • The tenant’s salary
  • If the tenant is responsible

The second way to estimate the likelihood that a tenant will pay rent is to require a tenant credit report. In the credit report, you can see the number of outstanding payments a tenant has, how many open accounts the tenant has, and the amount of outstanding debt.

You can even see how many monthly payments the tenant is making each month. If you add up the tenant’s monthly payments plus your rent price and compare that to the tenant’s income, then you can know if the tenant can reasonably afford rent. A common rule of thumb is to see if the tenant’s income is 3x the rent price. This rule doesn’t need to be followed perfectly, but it can guide your decision.

The last, and worst, reason why a tenant won’t pay rent is due to malicious intent. These kinds of nightmare tenants do exist and you’re best bet at avoiding them is to follow up with prior landlords, reach out to employer references, and follow a strict tenant screening process.

Already have a nightmare tenant who doesn’t pay rent? Find out what to do (and what not to do) when a tenant’s rent is late.

The Tenant Who Damages Your Property

Damaged Property

Tenants who damage your property cost you a ton of money. Not to mention it takes a lot of effort to find the right professionals who can repair broken appliances, fix stained floors, and rectify other kinds of damage. There’s also a big difference between normal rental property wear and tear and the nightmare tenant who destroys your property.

To avoid the nightmare tenant who damages your property, we recommend following a thorough screening process. In particular, there are two parts of your screening process that will help you in this case. The first is the tenant background check. When you’re reviewing a tenant background check, be on the lookout for a history of vandalism, theft, and arson. A history of destroying or stealing property is a strong indicator that a tenant will do that again.

The second way you can avoid this is by contacting a tenant’s prior landlords. When you reach out, ask these two important questions:

  1. Did the tenant take care of the rental property?
  2. Was the unit clean and in good order when the tenant moved out?

We also recommend that you contact more than just the tenant’s current landlord because current landlords may have a reason to lie if they are trying to get rid of a problem tenant. The best way to get accurate information is to follow up with a tenant’s current and prior landlords. The more information you have, the better.

The Tenant Who Argues With Everything You Say

There are some nightmare tenants who are a huge headache to deal with. They don’t agree with how you run your rental business, they have numerous complaints, and they are difficult to work with when it comes to various landlord-tenant tasks, including signing your rental lease and handling maintenance.

Our best advice is to get to know your tenants before renting to them. Typically, you’ll meet a prospective tenant for the first time at the rental property showing. We recommend you never host an open house (for many reasons), but the most important reasons are that you need to ask questions, watch out for red flags, and see if the tenant is someone you want to work with.

Some behavioral red flags to watch out for at a property showing:

  • Signs of disrespect or impolite behavior
  • Showing up late or not showing up at all

You can typically tell based on a person’s behavior if they are friendly and easy to work with. If you don’t want to rent to someone because of a “bad vibe,” be sure to solidify your reason with facts, like if the tenant showed up late or asked for a ridiculous rent reduction.

The Tenant Who Never Moves Out

Tenants who never move out, also known as squatters, are any tenants who stay in your property past their lease end date or who stop paying rent. This is a landlord’s worst nightmare: when someone is occupying your space, but not paying for it. Squatters typically need to be evicted or forcibly removed from the property. The legal process is a headache, not to mention expensive.

To avoid this type of nightmare tenant, we recommend asking for a tenant’s residence history on your rental application. At Rentalutions, we require tenants provide five years of residence history, including contact information for landlords.

As you’re reviewing a rental application, be weary of tenants who do not fill out residence history. Even if a tenant has been living at a parent’s house, a dormitory, or even if they owned their own home, they should still be able to report where they lived.

Prior landlords will be able to notify you of any red flags:

  • If the tenant skipped rent payments
  • If the tenant disrupted neighbors
  • If the tenant refused to move out
  • If the landlord had to file court papers against the tenant

If you follow up with prior landlords, you’ll get a reasonable sense for how the tenant will behave in the future.

The Tenant Who GHOSTS 

The Tenant Who Ghosts

It’s possible that a tenant will unexpectedly move out of your unit without notifying you. This kind of tenant abandonment leaves you in a sticky situation: you can’t reach your tenant, no one is paying rent, and he or she may have even left belongings there.

The best way to avoid this is similar to the steps above. Reach out to prior landlords and find out if a tenant was a responsible renter. Contact employers to find out if he or she is a stable employee. Similarly, find out if he or she has been at the same company for a long time.

Based on their residence history, find out if they move around a lot, or if they’ve been in one particular city for a few years. And last, always verify that their references are real people. If you speak to a landlord or employer on the phone, you can do a quick Google search or Linkedin search to verify you are speaking to the right person.

Tenants who ghost are usually running from a bad situation or are unable to pay rent and want to avoid it. If you can spot a tenant who has a history of ghosting or is an unstable employee, then you are more likely to avoid a nightmare tenant.

Check out these 6 rental horror stories to read stories of renting gone wrong.

The Tenant Who Brings You to Court

The best way to avoid going to court with a tenant is to stay compliant with landlord-tenant laws. We recommend always providing notice of entry, following Fair Housing Laws, and maintaining a safe condition for both your unit and building.

It’s also possible that you will end up in court if a tenant commits a crime on your property. This is why we strongly recommend you require a tenant background check. If a tenant has a serious criminal history, especially violent crimes, then you should deny him or her. Learn how to properly accept or deny a tenant here.

Next Steps 

To avoid renting to nightmare tenants, read our Complete Guide to Tenant Screening. Our 10,000 word guide tells you everything you need to know about screening tenants, including how to review a rental application, analyze a credit and background check, and reach out to tenant references.

And get started screening your tenants today with our online rental application and our comprehensive tenant credit report and background check. Join the 25,000+ landlords who are saving time and stress using Rentalutions- sign up today.


Also published on Medium.

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