Seven Tenants I’d Never Rent To …

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There are a lot of different types of people out there, with different personalities, quirks, attitudes, and opinions – and trust me, I think I’ve rented to them all. However, over the past seven years, there are certain character types I’ve learned to quickly run the other way from. These traits are not difficult to discover by doing a thorough tenant screening job, which is why I spent more than 5,000 words last year creating the Ultimate Guide to Tenant Screening.  Go ahead – go check it out. We’ll be here when you get back!

Today I want to share with you some of these character traits so you can hopefully avoid these tenants at all costs. Hopefully this list of ten “fictitious but totally plausible” tenant types will give you a good idea of who you should be watching out for when renting out a property.

Let’s get started. 

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1.) Entitled Tim

Entitled Tim grew up as the baby in the family, so naturally expects the world to be handed to him on a platter.  Tim expects the landlord to abide by his every wish because Entitled Tim deserves it. Before even becoming a tenant, he shows up to the property showing and immediately informs the landlord that the stove and fridge have been used before, so they will need to be replaced. Clearly, Entitled Tim deserves only brand new appliances, carpet, countertops, and paint.

Only the best for Entitled Tim, because the world owes it to him.

2.) Dirty Dan

Dirty Dan isn’t just dirty – he’s filthy and doesn’t care.

Not only is Dirty Dan dirty, but his kids Rotten Roger and Grimy Gale also contribute to the mess. Every wall in the home will soon be covered in an artistic collage of mud, crayon, and hair (from Dirty Dan’s oversized Dingy Dog.)  Dirty Dan doesn’t understand that vacuuming needs to be done more than once a year and garbage tossed out the back window won’t be magically placed in the garbage can.  He laughs when his children pour red Kool-aid all down the hallway and changes his motorcycle oil on the living room carpet.

Sometimes Dan’s girlfriend Lazy Laura comes by and offers to help clean up, but usually ends up just making a bigger mess for everyone and joins in the filth. Dirty Dan knows he isn’t the cleanest, so he avoids calling the landlord at all costs so his dirtiness will never be found out, even when a water supply line breaks in the ceiling and begins destroying the drywall in the kitchen. Eventually, Dirty Dan will move out, and adamantly insist that he should get his entire security deposit back.

3.) Lazy Laura

Laura hasn’t held a job in more than six years because her bosses have all demanded too much. Lazy Laura doesn’t understand why everyone is always in such a hurry to do things! “Eat, drink, and be Merry” is Lazy Laura’s motto in life, and most of her days are consumed watching episodes of talk shows trying to determine who the baby’s daddy is, but Lazy Laura usually guesses wrong.

Between the frequent naps and endless time spent on Facebook, Lazy Laura sometimes remembers to pay the rent on time, but usually will pay it when it’s most convenient or when the consequences of not paying become greater than the inconvenience of needing to get off the couch.  Laura eventually leaves without giving notice, moving in with Dirty Dan, leaving the landlord with a mess and no rent.

4.) Dave the Dealer

Dave the Dealer, on the surface, doesn’t seem like such a bad  tenant.

It seems like he’d be a really fun guy to hang out with at a party and he reminds you of the goofball in those 80’s movies you used to enjoy so much.  Dave is smart, articulate, and overly polite.  Even better, as a tenant, Dave the Dealer always pays his rent on time and even goes the extra mile to get you rent in cash before it’s due.  Although he gets a lot of foot traffic in and out of this property (several dozen shady looking characters a day,) he keeps a clean house and never causes problems.

However, Dave the Dealer’s good streak can only last so long before the cops break down the front door and haul him down to the county jail.  Suddenly, Dave’s cash is a little tight and some questionable people are hanging around his house while he’s locked up. The house get’s tagged with some explicit cartoon drawings, and the front window is smashed through with a rock from another Dealer.  It soon becomes clear that Dave the Dealer isn’t such a fun guy after all.

5.) Steve the Stoner

Steve the Stoner is another “fun” tenant we seem to see a lot of.

He doesn’t have the business sense that Dan the Dealer has, so he simply consumes the goods that Dan deals. Steve the Stoner isn’t a violent fellow, but the neighbors complain of loud noises coming through the walls late at night, and have even seem Steve jogging around the block in nothing but his underwear and a plunger.  Steve tends to keep to himself, with the Power Ranger bed sheets strung across every window in his apartment, making sure it’s generally as dark as possible inside his place, using only lava lamps to light the way.

Steve eventually loses his job, but decides that there are better alternatives to job hunting: getting stoned. Luckily, you won’t have to evict Steve, cause he’ll just trash the property and leave in the middle of the night.

6.) Larry the Lawyer

There is nothing wrong with having a good attorney on your team, but renting to Larry the Lawyer is not the kind of tenant I want in my properties.


Because Larry knows how to work the system.  Larry knows how to skip paying rent for six months and avoid prosecution by using obscure technicalities and irritating loopholes. Larry the Lawyer enjoys tormenting his landlord and making a game out of his misery.  There are a lot of places out there that Larry might live… but I just don’t want him at mine.

7.) Dramatic Darla

Dramatic Darla is the first to let you know about the talking she can hear through the walls of her apartment. She is also extremely nervous about the paint that got on the outlet cover in the kitchen during the last interior paint job, the neighbor (Dirty Dan) three houses down who has far too many cars parked in his driveway, and the nail hole in the ceiling that clearly the bugs are all coming in through.

Dramatic Darla spends a lot of time on WebMD, trying to determine the illness her child suddenly has – which was probably caused by faulty drywall in the home she is renting. Dramatic Darla demands that her landlord install a whole-house air purifier because of the toxic air quality outside, and threatens to withhold the rent because she saw an ant in her pantry.

Dramatic Darla has also Googled you, found your personal cell phone number, and makes every attempt to call at least once per day.


Of course, I’m being a little dramatic with this post but the fact remains: there are certain types of tenants you simply do not want to deal with. If there is one lesson I’ve learned as a landlord it’s this: wait for the right tenant. I don’t advocate ever discriminating against a tenant for any of the protected classes, but this doesn’t mean you need to take any tenant who comes off the street. As Mike Butler states in his book Landlording on Auto-Pilot – “Dirty is not a protected class.”

By rushing and putting in a tenant that will cause you months or years of headaches, you are only costing yourself more money and stress in the long run.  Do you due diligence with every prospective tenant: dig into their background, their credit, their previous landlord references, and job history, and anything else you can (legally) find out and try to get a feel for what kind of tenant they are going to be.

Before you rent to any tenant, take a moment and ask yourself one important question:

Is this a tenant I am willing to bet part of my financial future on?  

If not – move on and find a safer bet.

What about you? Have you rented to any of these tenants in your business? Am I missing a tenant type? Add your comments below! 

Photo: boltron-

About Author

Brandon Turner

Brandon Turner is an active real estate investor, entrepreneur, writer, and co-host of the BiggerPockets Podcast. He began buying rental properties and flipping houses at age 21, discovering he didn’t need to work 40 years at a corporate job to have “the good life.” Today, with nearly 100 rental units and dozens of rehabs under his belt, he continues to invest in real estate while also showing others the power, and impact, of financial freedom. His writings have been featured on,,, Money Magazine, and numerous other publications across the web and in print media. He is the author of The Book on Investing in Real Estate with No (and Low) Money Down, The Book on Rental Property Investing, and co-author of The Book on Managing Rental Properties, which he wrote alongside his wife, Heather. A life-long adventurer, Brandon (along with his wife Heather and daughter Rosie) splits his time between his home in Washington State and various destinations around the globe.


  1. Instead of “Stoner Steve” I might suggest “Baked Brandon.” Good stuff and the quote at the end about betting on your financial future with a “Baked Brandon” type. It really makes one think. Thanks again for the good info.

    • Brandon Turner

      Hahaha Steve, thanks! Yeah, it really is amazing how much the right tenant can play into your financial future. I’m dealing with a tenant right now (I didn’t place her, i got her with the property) who will end up costing me 2 years of cash flow. Ugh!

      • Brandon,
        I just purchased a house with a tenant included who has payed on time and the house is in very good shape. She has been treating it as her own. However, the previous landlord included things in the lease that I am not OK with. (i.e. less than a month’s rent as security deposit, and inclusion of a city bill). This, like your case, will significantly impact my cash flow. I would like to keep her around, so would you have some suggestions on how I can ease the pain so to speak.

        • In this case, I’d leave the security deposit alone. If she’s taking care of the place, the you hopefully won’t have reason to hold her deposit if and when she finally moves. She will resent you asking her for more security at this point.

          Depending on how large the city bill is, you may be able to transfer that bill to her as her next rent increase, or if it’s too big for a single rent increase, I’d probably continue to pay it but I’d work her rent up in price to compensate for the bill over the next couple of rent increases (assuming the market rent in the area supports the prices you’re asking). Not sure I like this one, but I’ll mention it anyway… You could actually lower her rent a little and transfer the bill to her. Then you’re off the hook for the bill and if the city raises the prices, that’s not on you anymore. It’s on her.

          Don’t lose a good tenant over $50/mo. It will cost you a lot more than that in vacancy, advertising, minor repairs that the property needs, etc…

  2. Hi Brandon,

    Do you have any practical ideas as to how to refuse renting to these characters and not get caught in some sort of anti-discrimination lawsuit? Especially if Larry Lawyer is also a member of one of the protected classes.


    • Brandon Turner

      Hey Mike,

      Generally, it seems everyone has something that can disqualify them. A lot of times, it might be a bad landlord reference or lack-of-landlord references. However, if not, what I would do, is just state that there were multiple applications and you went with the best qualified. Just be sure to document everything and follow the law carefully in denying the tenant!

      Hope that helps some.

  3. It’s hard to identify some of those right away though, even with calling previous landlords and background checks. And sometimes, we”ve had good tenants become those people. The one you didn’t mention, and I’ve had several of these, is Crazy Carla! How do you screen for those people? They see ghosts, they overreact to everything, they call several times a week screaming at you, then instantly turn nice mid-call. Yeah, they’re the ones I’d REALLY like to screen for.

  4. Brandon –

    I absolutely agree. They are problems waiting to happen, and I’ve had almost everyone of those folks living in my houses disguised as a “potential good tenant” when they initially showed up to rent.

    You can usually spot “Entitled Tim” and “Dramatic Darla”; the real person shows up right from the beginning making demands and causing trouble. Some of the other ones that actually have verifiable employment, take a shower and dress up for the showing and are harder to spot.

    Now I didn’t find out about “Dave the Dealer” until the rent was late, and I started knocking on the neighbor’s doors to see if anything unusual had been going on with this tenant. Then I heard the same story; there were a lot of strange looking people coming and going.

    After I called to police and set up a stakeout, he moved out and I found a hole in the wall about 2’x4′ behind a dresser (which he also left behind). Now he could have simply walked 15 steps to the attic hatch for his “stash” but apparently that was too hard for Pothead Pete. He had to cut a big old hole in my wall.

    As for Larry the Lawyer; no way in hell! I always had “an equally qualified tenant that had put in his application before Larry”. Problem solved.

    Trust your gut when it comes to tenants and you will be way ahead of the game.

    Great post!

  5. Brandon,
    Great post and I love feeding on all this info as I am looking into my first multi family property. A number of years ago I had a SFH that I rented to one of the guys that I out ranked at work. He was a loner, somewhat awkward and he probably consumed his free time with multiple channels of porn, but he always paid his rent on time…there were many times he came to find me to pay me and I thought, oh yeah it’s the first of the month. It was a decent first experience into the landlord occupation. When he moved out 4 years later the biggest mess was cat urine that had soaked through the carpet in the wash room. Lots of Kilns to get rid of that smell. Sometimes these stories begin to scare me away from the multi family units, but then I remember that using the numerous tools that you guys at BP provide, I can hopefully avoid some of the major issues…Thanks for another great article


  6. Great post! I just closed on my first multifamily a couple of weeks ago. All tenants paid their rent on time (hooray!), but in one of the envelopes was a letter from Dirty Dan and Lazy Laura serving 30 days notice. Now, you’d think this would be upsetting to have a vacancy so soon after acquiring the building, but I just smiled and hit my Staples Easy button. The seller had warned me that though they always paid on time they were difficult tenants for reasons aside from being small time hoarders and mess mongers. They had lived in different units in the building, leaving in a huff when the seller set limits with them. For some reason, he always let them come back (which they typically did within a matter of weeks to months of moving out). Not gonna happen with me. I have a waiting list of young professional couples for this unit.

  7. I had the Larry Lawyer/Dramatic Darla combo. Knew something about EVERYTHING but didn’t have sense enough to wiggle the handle on the toilet. Always threaten to call “their” lawyer but couldn’t afford to pay their water bill.

    • Brandon Turner

      Hey Adrian – Yeah, I probably shoulda covered that a bit better, huh!? Next article maybe 🙂 Easiest answer: Calling previous landlords. If they don’t have any … don’t rent to them! And not just the most current, but also any they’ve ever rented to!

      Also – usually it’s pretty apparent right away and there are a lot of red flags. I tend to try and dismiss those flags as me being paranoid, but every time it comes back to bite me!

  8. Here are some of my rules:

    Never rent to a tenant without a car. If he can’t afford a car, or hasn’t the brains to keep a license, he probably will have difficutly affording your rent.

    Don’t rent to a tenant who shows up with all their belongings packed into a car or moving truck, and eager to move in. They probably just got evicted. The reason for their eagerness is not so much that they really like your house/apt., but because they want a roof over their head. Be smart and tell them “No.”

    Also be very cautious of tenants who overlook dirt from the previous tenant, and say they clean it for you. Chances are very good they also just got evicted and and willing to do some cleaning to keep a roof over your head.

  9. Second cousin to Larry the Lawyer is been around the block Barry, who for us came with live in girlfriend payment plan Paula. She’d try and figure out how to pay weekly if we let her (rent was due in full on the 1st), and when we pushed back he’d mention all the ways our unit made it difficult for him to get around in the wheelchair he didn’t have when they moved in. We released them from their lease early and they took the out and left without issue, luckily.

    • Brandon Turner

      Glad you got out of that one! I’ve had similar tenants – and this is exactly why I only do month-to-month leases. It’s a controversial choice (a lot of people only do year-round ones) but i want the ability to tell a tenant to leave, anytime, with no legal requirement to put up with their crap! 🙂 Thanks for the comment!

  10. Great article Brandon, Thank you.

    #8 Fix It Fred. Moves in and begins modifying the house. Adds a door to the dining room to make a bedroom for the “unapproved additional tenant” (Mother in law). Adds wallpaper to kids bedroom, Paints, Tears out the rose bushes so his kids won’t get pricked. Basically makes house modifications to fit his needs, then tells you he’s “added value”.

    I’ve had Dirty Dan and family…. never again I hope.


  11. Hey what about Responsible Rita ,and Stable Steve who are actually great tenants that paid 1425 a month for nine years even though the Lousy Landlord Louie made no mortgage payments for the last two years, breached the contract by not paying utilities that were included in rental agreement, that evicted instead of replacing the heater that was old and non functioning, or replacing the collapsing roof, that despite a written notice of 6 substandard conditions was issued by code enforcement, he perjured his UD complaint and served an illegal 3 day eviction notice in violation of 1942.4.a and Jerk the Judge allowed it to go to court even though it was defective on its face as well. So the paying tenants that kept the property neatly maintained, landscaped and with no help from the landlord ever were denied due process of the law and were evicted on DECEMBER 20 2012. This is a true story and the amount of corruption bias and unlawful behavior by some superior court judges in San Luis Obispo County Ca is beyond belief.

    • Brandon Turner

      Ouch Steve- that’s not fun. You know, it’s sad that Responsible Rita and Stable Steve don’t get enough credit (not thanks to posts like this one! ) There are still too many Lousy Landlords out there, and hopefully BiggerPockets can help train them how to do it the right, ethical way!

  12. How about Whining Wanda? Whining Wanda is a pest. But I will rent to Whining Wanda, and use the tools here on BiggerPockets to set expectations, effectively address the whining, and get paid on time. Great article and great feedback everyone.

  13. I know all of these people’s real names!

    Seriously… screen well. There is a difference between the $20 screening service and the $40 screening service. The quality of information and the scope of the search is well worth it. Also, and equally important, have good conversations with your prospective tenants. Bad tenants have a propensity for giving out information over the course of a conversation that conflicts with their application or credit and background screenings. Don’t be afraid to ask very direct questions.
    “Do you have a heads up for me on your criminal background?”
    “I have a felony history.”
    “What for?”
    “I accidentally stabbed my boyfriend – twice.”
    (True story)

    Lastly, every landlord should be aware of a recent trend of craigslist postings that advertise a service for “check stubs and references” for screenings. Do your homework!! Do not rely on provided information. (Fraudulent Fred?)

    • Problem is that dramatic darla and lazy Larry actually introduce themselves and pretend to be handyman, near freak Larry and No drama Darla, until of course they have a sudden personality change after they move in or out of your apartment.
      Personality quirks and traits are more subtle and harder to sort.
      In general, I have had bad luck renting to people who stay at home a lot , too much time on their hands, not because thy don’t pay, but high maintenance.
      Neat freaks are ok, if they truly are, but they may expect much more as well. Had a neat freak lady who was very happy moving in and within a day had a list of 30 items that needed addresses.

  14. Brandon, what a great and funny article! You are right. A few years ago I was renting apartments, mostly to students, while working as a real estate agent, and I remember some of the landlords we were working for to ask never to bring the neither a music student nor a law student!!

    When I asked why? They all pretty much said the same: Music students “study” up late bangging their drums until 3am to take their exams the next
    And law students will start practicing their learning at law school with their landlord.

    So what should I bring you then?

    Medical students, those are the best! They have no time to be in here and when they are they have no time to fool around!

  15. Great post Brandon! Thanks

    So who is the perfect tenant? Sometimes we get a mix of these scenarios and they end up working out. I think having good policies in place, an iron clad lease with rules helps. We’ve learned it’s all about the setup.

  16. I used to own 2 rooming houses for 3 years. First I was managing one of them, therefore, I went from been the manager of 16 rooms to becoming the landlord of 28 rooms (after adding 12 new rooms on the new property). In the beginning all you had to do to move in was to: “Show me the money”!! No lease, no contracts, no regulations, no policies! By the time I got rid of these “headaches”, I mean, houses, I had a well drafted legal lease, and 45 regulations! That’s how bad it got.

    I got so strict about letting people move into my rooming houses that I told my prospective tenants: “It is easier for you to move into the White House than into my house”

    I used to tell my Entitled Tim and my Crazy Carla: “This is 4 Glenway… Not Four Seasons!

  17. Funny article Brandon. Thankfully I have not met all these characters. I did have a run in with Larry the Lawyer. For being such a smart lawyer he sure was dense when it came to how to operate a house.

    I still have Fix it Fred living in one of my properties. A lot of the things he’s done I don’t mind so much so I didn’t remind him that he is not supposed to do repairs. I did remind him last summer when the City code enforcement office told me of the metal poles sticking up in the yard. He was trying to extend the fence along side the house, blocking the windows by the way. I told him to take them out and leave the property the hell alone from now on. But I am creating “value” for you he opined.

    Allen is right, look in there car if you get a chance. If it’s a pig sty then your rental will probably end up as one too.

  18. This is great!

    I’d also like to add to the list “Activist Arlene”. She wants to fight the power. And that includes you. Part Lawyer Larry, she is in using the law against you. Plus you get a touch of Dealer Dan, but the FBI may be busting down the door due to her affiliation with anarchist and other anti-establishment organizations. And don’t forget you get the addition of Dramatic Darla since your place probably isn’t fully certified organic.

    I’m now googling my prospective tenants in addition to the regular background checks, just for this reason!

  19. Here’s another one:
    Jenny with the Jailhouse Boyfriend: You rent to the sweetest girl in town who pays her rent on time for months and all the while you think she’s single. Then her violent felon boyfriend gets out of prison and all hell breaks loose. He moves in and she can’t stop him because she’s abused and scared of him. The neighbors are scared of him too, and you’re stuck trying to get rid of both of them now before your other tenants move out of the building. Not sure how you screen for this other than my standard question “Is there anyone else who might move in with you in the future?”…

    I have an Entitled Tim who is on Section 8 to boot! Doesn’t even pay his own rent and cries when the ice maker doesn’t dispense ice properly.

    Dirty Dan was actually my most costly tenant in history. This guy along with his entire family completely trashed a house in 6 months to the point that I didn’t have to evict him… The city declared the property unfit for human habitation and kicked them out for me. (I actually got the city to condemn the house for me as a plot to get rid of these people – cleaned it up and then got the condemnation removed). We hauled a 30 yard dumpster full of stuff out of this house!

    Lazy Laura… I’ve had mixed luck with Lazy Laura types. If they’re lazy enough that they’re on Section 8 and don’t have a rent portion then they’re not so bad. They’re too lazy to actually damage the property. Too lazy to vacuum too, but that’s why I’ve stopped putting carpet in rentals. If, on the other hand, they have a substantial portion or have to pay their own rent, then you definitely don’t want this tenant.

    Spot on with Dave the Dealer. Been there, done that.

    Dramatic Darla – oh yes, I’ve had this one… Dramatic Darla makes the phone ring all too often and for miniscule things that should not be concerning her. I actually transferred a small duplex to another property manager over Dramatic Darla. Sorry Other Manager – you are more than welcome to the fees on that property.

    So far, I’ve avoided Steve the Stoner and Larry the Lawyer – thank goodness!

    Great read! Would have been more entertaining if it weren’t so darned true!

  20. I’ve had a few Picky Paulas that I eventually appreciated. Someone who bugs you constantly for the first couple of months to get the place to near perfect condition. That person cares a lot and will keep the place looking great. And now the place is in better condition, and the work was done while receiving rent, not between renters.

    Sometimes it can be hard to tell the difference between a good Picky Paula and Dramatic Darla or a flat out crazy Anal Retentive Annie, however.

  21. Excellent article, Brandon. Thank you bringing us the main course, while readers sharing great appetizers. Really appreciate what i learned today.

    I used smartmove to screen my tenants. The service was good, but it could not feed me the intangible things as mentioned in Brandon’s article. The supplementary screening method that has worked well for me was the informal conversation with the potential tenants. Just relax and be patient when listening to their responses/stories.

  22. GASP! How did you know what has been happening to me! All the way to the noisy neighbors to the bugs (#7)! Wow! I just had a #6 in a basement apt who pressured me to find a new tenant because she wanted to break the lease and she’s a lawyer clearly getting, at the very least, direction from a lawyer friend who informed her to remind me that I had an obligation to “mitigate my losses”. So under pressure, stress and doing everything I can to avoid going to court I rented to a #7 who has been nothing but trouble, stress and I’ve recently decided she’s psychotic! Yikes again! “Darla”, as I’ll refer to her, has indeed complained about every single thing from the upstairs tenant being noisy all the time (this is a large Victorian house in Platt Park that I’ve split out into 2 units) and I know that can’t be the case because she’s always out of town, to spiders everywhere. She even checked with #6 who she had met during the renting process to see if she had issues with spider and, to my favor, told her that she only saw them once or twice a year! She demanded I do something about them which I denied. She reminds me every time we communicate that she has medical issues with her legs and hips YET she has rented an apartment with stairs. She blows many things out of proportion and to this day after renting this unit out for the past 13 years I can clearly say I’ve never had anyone like this drive me so crazy to the point that I wish I could get her out after only 3 months of tenancy. HELP!?

    I feel I did do my due diligence by not only running a background check but also calling 3 references who were the last 3 places she rented from; one of which was an old boyfriend that she roomed with and shared the bills. Everyone totally vouched for her and never made any comments about how messy she was or that she was a #7. With that said I did have a bad feeling about her and if it weren’t for #6 pressuring me and the good references, I would have passed on her. 🙁 Thanks for the article. After all these years I feel I’m still learning.
    Denver, CO

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