Landlording & Rental Properties

7 Types of Tenants Who Cause MAJOR Landlord Headaches

Expertise: Landlording & Rental Properties, Real Estate Investing Basics, Flipping Houses, Business Management, Personal Development, Mortgages & Creative Financing, Real Estate News & Commentary
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Tenants are the lifeblood of the landlording business. But as landlords, we don’t want just anyone as our tenants. We want good quality people who will pay, stay, and respect our properties. We want tenants who will not cause problems—with us or our other tenants.

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We landlords already have enough problems to deal with, and the last thing we need is to add to those by selecting a tenant that will make numerous unreasonable requests, burn up the phone lines, or just be a general pain.

Tenant screening is one key to finding good tenants. Another key is being aware of characteristics that can signal a potential problem.

Over the years, experience has proven that there are several characteristics landlords should beware of—things that are worthy of further investigation. I’m not saying that the following characteristics always present a problem, just that years of experience have taught me to look deeper and be a bit more cautious.

7 Types of Tenants Who Cause MAJOR Landlord Headaches

1. The Storyteller

The storyteller has always got to explain things before he answers your questions. Even the simplest questions that should require only a yes or no answer come with a long and convoluted story. For example, if you were to ask, “Have you ever been evicted?” instead of a yes or no answer, you are like to get a response such as, “You see there was this time when my roommate…”

Be careful with the storyteller. Listen to the stories if you want to, but understand that the storyteller often thinks they can gloss things over and smooth talk their way into your property. Beware and don’t fall for it.

2. The Momma’s Boy

You know the type—the child who just can’t seem to cut those apron strings. Despite being 30 years old, they have never really made a decision on their own in their entire life and have not had to. Mom (or Dad) has made all of the decisions for them.

This type shows up to apartment viewings, lease signings, and other appointments with Mom and/or Dad in tow. They never talk to you; rather, Mom does all the talking, negotiating, etc.

Related: How to Be a Landlord’s Dream Tenant — and Get into Any Rental You Choose

Does this mean Mom and Dad coming along is always bad? No. But you can usually tell the child who is trying to spread their wings from one who has been coddled all their life.

Beware of the latter type of applicant. Have they ever held their own job or been on their own before? They often have no clue how to live on their own or how to manage their lives. They and their mom could be a load of problems down the road.


3. The Spoiled Deadbeat 

This type also has Mom and/or Dad in tow, but they are really excited to tell you how wonderful their kid is and how great a tenant he or she will be when the kid is indifferent and unengaged. The parents offer to pay the deposit, co-sign, anything to get you to rent to their wonderful kid.

Beware. There is potentially something wrong that they are trying to dump on you. Most likely, they just want them out of the house.

But you have to ask yourself why. What is wrong with this kid? Perhaps it is nothing. Or perhaps the kid is a lazy deadbeat.

4. The Perfectionist

We have all had a perfectionist in our lives at some point. They drove you crazy, didn’t they? Nothing is ever good enough.

Do you want to let one live in your property? Will anything ever be right for them, or will they constantly harass you with phone calls about this little thing or that little thing? Lookout for the perfectionist.

5. The Complainer

The complainer often shows up and very quickly lets the tongue start flapping: "My last landlord never fixed anything." Or perhaps, "The property was never maintained, and the other tenants were trashy."

“Will that be fixed?”

“This room is really small.”

“Who lives next door? I don’t like a lot of noise!”

The complaints go on and on. And they likely will go on and on if you let them in your property. A bit of complaining is normal. But beware of anyone who complains too much.

6. The All Cash Dealer

The all cash dealer looks and sounds really good. They wave a lot of cash in front of you, stating that they can pay the deposit along with first and last month’s rent today. They might even say they want to pay a year’s rent up front.

Sounds great, right? But you have to ask yourself why they are doing this.

Related: The Top 14 Tips Landlords Wish Their Tenants Knew

Sure, there could be a multitude of legitimate reasons—but it is not normal. Paying up front for a year is not how things are normally done.

Could they be trying to hide something? Maybe, maybe not. Again you need to beware.

Plus, think about this—how do you evict someone who has paid a year of rent up front if things go south? It is still possible but a bit more difficult.


7. The Space Cadet

Ever have someone get lost five times while trying to make it to a showing? Could they never seem to get the correct address or the correct time to show up?

You might be dealing with a space cadet, and again, you need to beware of letting this person into your life.

Can they remember to pay the rent on time, or will you constantly be calling them? Will they be able to care for your property?

Again, the answer is maybe or maybe not. You just need to dig a little deeper to be sure they are nothing more than a bit directionally challenged.

Remember, I am not saying that folks displaying these characteristics should automatically be disqualified. What I am saying is that you need to be on the lookout for these characteristics—and if you see them, beware.

Check out the stories, review the cash dealer’s background, talk to the complainer’s previous landlord and current boss. Remember that rudeness and promptness can count. Remember also not to discriminate against the protected classes and to have your selection criteria written down and on file.

What characteristics do you look out for? What makes you say “no way?”

Leave a comment below, and let’s help each other avoid bad tenant situations!

Kevin Perk is co-founder of Kevron Properties, LLC with his wife Terron and has been involved in real estate investing for 10 years. Kevin invests in ...
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    Akintola Dasilva from Silver Spring, Maryland
    Replied over 2 years ago
    I had a perfectionist complainer once. I saw the trait during the walkthrough and after the 3rd or 4th complaint, I said “I’m sorry if this unit isn’t up to your standards…”. She said “No no, I just need these 2 things done.” Despite my better judgement, we entered a lease agreement and she proceeded to call me at least once a month for the first 6 months. Though she could easily afford the place and paid promptly, I was seriously considering letting her walk at the end of the lease. but she all of the sudden got very quiet. Barely heard a peep from her. Turned out, she’d met someone and now HE was taking care of all the little issues she had been calling me about. I renewed the lease for another year and was actually kind of sad when she left to buy a house with him. 6 months later, she called me up to say things weren’t working out and she needed to lease again. I guess he got tired of the complaining too.
    Virginia H Rockwell from N Brunswick, New Jersey
    Replied over 2 years ago
    We always call the former landlord and ask, “If they wanted to come back, would you take them back?” Weeds out a few bad actors.
    Donna Coffman
    Replied over 2 years ago
    We paid our rent a year in advance because we have 3 dogs and a cat (all elderly) and were moving to an area where the real estate market is EXTREMELY competitive (Northern California). We had owned our home in Texas and were going to be renters again for the first time in over 13 years. We decided early on that the only way we even stood a chance to have potential landlords consider us with 4 pets was to offer something most people couldn’t. I never dreamed anyone would have thought that reflected negatively on our character. I guess we’re lucky our landlord didn’t read this article before he chose to rent to us!
    Erik Benson from Modesto, California
    Replied about 2 years ago
    It’s not legal to accept more than 3 months (1st last deposit) rent at move in in CA. This is why it’s a red flag.
    Romilda P Smith Real Estate Agent from Richmond, VA
    Replied about 2 years ago
    I am not a landlord, but I read the article and every comment! People around me were asking what was going on. I too actually thought paying more (a year in advance was a good thing). I must admit, however, that everyone I know who thought it was a great idea (potential tenants) was because they had bad credit. An awesome article. I am a realtor and just closed with a buyer that had some of these traits.
    Rob D. Investor from Riverside, California
    Replied about 2 years ago
    My last vacant rental was a fun one when it came to interviews. I think I ran the gamut of all your “watch out” for this type. 1. Great couple really qualified. Three kids. The kids were wonderful everything is great. We’re literally on the first date and falling for each other. Look over at the wonderful kids. Two of them were climbing on the OUTSIDE of the stair banister going upstairs. I looked at them and said “seriously”. Mom grabbed the kids walked out. 2. Whenever I ask a question and the answer starts with “see here is the thing” or “ ok here’s what happened with that” I pretty much know I’m In for a anesthesiologists wet dream as far as the story is concerned. Over the years I got really good at tuning it out and mentally talk to myself. 3. Watch out for the knockout applicant. I had a very nice looking young lady who was looking at the place. She was so nice and very motivated to get the place. Very motivated. Im not gonna fall in that man trap and I texted my lady neighbor who came right over. Hey in today’s world I’m not gonna take a chance. 4. The aggressive applicant. I had a guy who I literally had to almost get physical. Guy hated being a renter, hated the high rents in the area and was very vocal on letting me known that “ he won’t put up with bs from the LL” . Ok pal I think we’re done here. What I never understood is that I send out preliminary questionnaires and I tell people to fill these out completely and answer every question and there is a background check no exceptions. Any omissions or untrue statements are grounds for denial. Yet I still get half filled questionnaires, flat out lies and people who want me to make this one exception or the people who think paying cash or offering more puts them ahead
    Kimberly H. Residential Real Estate Broker from Chicago Suburbs, Illinois
    Replied about 2 years ago
    With regards to Rob D.’s comments Sept 7th, I hate #2 and hate the constant lying. I have had #3, which is my case was a 3 firemen. They could have easily paid rent by selling their own firemen calendar.
    Jamie Jaramillo from Seattle, Washington
    Replied almost 2 years ago
    Great article and a wonderful way to bring what type of renters we may deal with into perspective. However, in terms of the “perfectionist” aspect, I feel as though it is important to be present with your tenants. I have had multiple landlords who did nothing for broken pipes or plumbing. In the long run this will end up costing us money.