7 Types of Tenants Who Cause MAJOR Landlord Headaches

by | BiggerPockets.com

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, either to us or to our other tenants. 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 shown that there are several characteristics landlords should beware of and 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 this 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 one of your properties? Will anything ever be right for them, or will they constantly harass you with phone calls about this little thing or that little thing? Beware of 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 upfront. 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 a year upfront 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 upfront if things go south? It is 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.

We’re republishing this article to help out our newer readers.

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!

About Author

Kevin Perk

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 and manages rental properties in Memphis, TN and is a past president and vice-president of the local REIA group, the Memphis Investors Group.


  1. good points !
    Especially about an applicant who complains too much—- the applicant who has all kinds of stories about their “past bad landlords” – we just had one of those look at a vacant property– — she had all kinds of stories about her past two “bad landlords”– it ended up that she had been terminated by both landlords for not paying her rent — also avoid anyone who answers your specific rental history questions evasively or indirectly —

  2. David Cook

    This hits the nail on the head. I have a perfectionist at the moment, so far a month hasn’t gone by without at least one complaint of some kind or another. The upside is that he has kept his unit in immaculate condition and the rent has yet to be late.

    • Kevin Perk


      Good news on getting the rents and keeping the place maintained. I hope that outweighs the types of complaints you are getting (I know the feeling). If they are minor, one can generally deal with it.

      Thanks for reading and taking the time to comment,


  3. Amy A.

    I have shown properties to all of these people! I’m glad to see they’re not just in my market. One kid showed up with his mom half asleep with dried toothpaste around his mouth. Another one told me her current landlord has dementia and was trying to evict her for no reason. He’s the president of the Landlord’s Association so I called him up and asked him if he has dementia. We had a good laugh! (but he was sorry that I wouldn’t take his deadbeat tenant.)

      • Patricia Kennedy

        Can anyone help me my landlord has given me an ultimatum I either get rid of my dog which is an emotional service animal or I move and take my dog with me I am a 62 year old lady that’s on disability and suffer from any health problems as far as anxiety attacks high blood pressure coronary heart disease neuropathy COPD and she’s telling me that I cannot have my dog in a rooming house I have an Esa letter from my doctor my PCP doctor which has informed her and anyone else that I suffer from depression and anxiety and panic attacks is there any way around this please help in Orlando Florida I am in desperate need ASAP

    • Laurel Devine

      Haha! I just had a lady yesterday called to set up the appointment and showed up and THEN told me it was actually for her 26 year old son. When I asked her why she was calling and viewing the apartment for him, she said he was too shy and wouldn’t know what to ask or look for! I was floored. I told her it sounded to me like he should stay with her a few more years until he grows up and becomes a man (not sure when that will be…). She wanted to give me cash right then and there. No thank you.

  4. I couldn’t agree more. Especially about the story telling. Lets be honest the tell story is usually nothing more than a lie and sometimes a really big fat lie. I have a policy in place and it is simply this: “I’ll let your problems be your problems and my problems be my problems.” This is a business not a therapy session. No headaches!

  5. Don’t forget the over friendly tenant that wants to be your friend and thinks the relationship is anything more but landlord – tenant.

    Then there is over the top Jesus tenant. Over the top Jesus tenant (also applies to employees) will condemn you to hell the first opportunity they can when they are behind on rent or get reprimanded for not following the lease. Over the top Jesus tenant will pray for you in these situations as if that is going to change anything. So it’s not all bad, who couldn’t use a extra prayer regardless of how condensing and insincere it may be.

  6. Christine O'Meara on

    I hope I don’t have to go through any of these this year, that I made a good choice of tenants last year.
    Otherwise, these are extremely true and good points! Screen and research well and hope that the good ones stay for a while…

  7. Bill Bell

    Indeed, the “perfectionist” can be a risk, but also a great tenant IF they are also not a “complainer.” Of course, these two character types also seem to usually go hand in had; however, if you can find a non-complaining perfectionist, they can be great tenants. I have had both and the non-complaining perfectionist kept to himself, but left the place in immaculate condition at departure. The complaining perfectionist…. well they left the place immaculate at departure, but were also a major headache with requests so minor, I could not even hire a cleaning crew to complete!

    • Kevin Perk


      I agree with you. Sometime the good aspects will outweigh the bad. It can be really hard to tell which side will be more prevalent at times. Experience really does help in these situations.

      Thanks for reading and commenting,


  8. keith gehring

    My best advice: Be very cautious to rent to a person who works at a law firm: Lawyer, Legal Asst., Paralegal. I just evicted one who knew all the right things to say before they moved in, then after they moved in, they know all the landlord rules/laws, and they know how to work the system……to their advantage.

    Be very wary!!!

  9. Ernest Porell

    Watch out for reallt affable guys. Middle aged. Too easy going. You can bet on a serious crime on record. Hiding explosive or devious peesonality.

    Do background on people who’S family you know but not them personally.

    Never rent to a friend.

    Beware those who hit every point.. neat nic. Dont like noise. Once in a while have a ‘couole’ of drinks. They’re exact opposite.

    Grill em on the drinking, guests, and anything that moght show on record

  10. Jason A.

    I could add an mini-encyclopedia of red flag applicant types. One of the more vexatious ones I would classify as “The Blatant Liar”.

    One of the application questions I had was “Have you ever been evicted?” An applicant (older woman) had applied and was repeatedly phoning me to ask the status of her application. While I was at the courthouse checking the local eviction records (this was a few years ago when eviction records were a little harder to come by), sure enough, I saw her name on the docket. And she had answered “no” to the eviction question. So next time she phones me:

    “Have you rented that house yet? I’m really interested in it.”

    “Well, no ma’am, I haven’t, but as I was checking your application, I noticed your name appeared on the eviction list. Was that you?”


    “You’re being evicted? You lied on your application?”


    “I throw out any application where the person has lied. Why did you lie?”

    “Well, would you have rented to me if I had told the truth?”

    That’s a true story, folks.

    Moral: a little research goes a long way. Do your homework, gang.

  11. I would add that you should not rent to people with out of control children. I once had a couple whose children lit a firecracker on the kitchen floor of my rental while they were filling out the application. They seemed like nice people, but they have a kid that I cannot afford in my house.

  12. Michael Krizmanich

    I have seen many combination of types in one or two tenants. Michelle: children are a protected class. Jason: I also just evicted a blatant lair who also claimed to be a “born-again Christian.” In the end, they claimed their daughter had suddenly developed a heart problem around Christmas and that was the reason they could not pay the rent. The funny thing was that they did not take into account me looking up on-line and finding their daughter’s Instagram page where she was boasting of taking 2nd place in a state cheerleader competition 2 days earlier. Taking a snapshot of her page for the courts: priceless! I didn’t get the chance to tell them, “you sow what you reap.” Amen!

  13. Michael Krizmanich

    Anyone know of any savvy comebacks to being asked to reduce the rent upon the first showing? I get this alot. People approach you without even filling out an app yet and ask if you are willing to come down on the rent. The conversation starts out with them saying something like,” but we are excellent tenants and feel you would want us, so are you negotiable on the rent?” The last tenant I evicted also tried the same line. My feeling is like, “why should I negotiate down and I have not even seen what you look like on a credit application.” It seems kind of presumptuous – like someone asking for a higher salary and yet not filling out a job application. My wife says that she can see their inquiry as valid. I do at times and then I don’t. People EXPECT you to be there within 24 hours to fix things WITHOUT any excuse, they expect you to pay the taxes and maintain the yard, etc. Do they think money grows on trees? Just wondering how others handle the question of lowering the rent.

  14. Michael Krizmanich

    As long as a tenant has good credit and their income and references fit, I would not care if they work at a law firm. Besides credit, criminal and eviction history, the other dynamic is “crazy.” This can be regardless of what job they do. Unfortunately, we are not allowed to require Rorschach tests or Psyche profiles. My feeling is that if an applicant is “crazy,” it will eventually bleed out through their past dealings with other landlords, jobs and through their credit. We need to look past the desire to like them – that is something I have learned -to not ignore those small red flags. Unfortunately, those that are (how do I say it) professional hemorrhoids, know how to paint a picture and fool the unsuspecting landlord. Eventually, you learn the hard way (which sadly, is always the best way) and become a better landlord or just sell your properties and call it a day.

    • Kevin Perk


      Things do bleed out. And sometimes it just takes experience to see them. That’s why we are all here. To share and learn and hopefully save someone else the problems we had to learn the hard way.

      Thanks for reading and sharing,


  15. Great article, with 2 evictions and a third one on the way within a year, I definitely need to pay more attention to screening our tenants. The first eviction we did was, in all honesty, for the people who came with the house we had bought, who were crackheads and squatters. Second eviction was only a couple of months after renting out the house. The stories started, that kept changing, we should have checked eviction history. One house we’ve rented to a coworker who seemed like a great person, but has regularly fallen behind every month. Now we’re several months behind and starting the eviction process. Definitely NEVER rent to a friend/coworker.

  16. ihe o.

    When I was on study abroad I paid a years rent up front and got a 10% discount. Now with that out of the way I will say this.

    Bad mouthing the people who pay our bills is a smug and deplorable character trait.

    Thank you.

  17. Julia Rowling

    Sounds like the author may be a bit of a perfectionist himself! Let’s face it, the “perfect” tenant rarely appears. Many, if not most, people who are renting homes are “trouble” in some way or another: young and inexperienced, unable to manage finances, can’t hold down a job, transient, hesitant to make a commitment, and so on… If you reject people based on the criteria in the article, prepare for a lot of vacancies.

  18. Terrence Arth

    Hi Julia, I can appreciate your comments and point of view. I would note however that the author qualified his comments not once but twice. From my perspective, for a relatively small rent amount monthly, I am trusting a very large asset to someone I don’t know. An asset I might add, that I am responsible for. If the home gets put out of service by a bad tenant, I still have payments to make. You might hand over keys to a hundred thousand or quarter million dollar asset in exchange for $XXX per month with a minimal security deposit. To me it is all risk mitigation. By observing people, looking for traits, habits and activities that indicate probable non payment or other negative outcomes you can possibly eliminate potential issues. As a business person, I feel you owe it to yourself to reduce your exposure, backend work and stress IMHO. Even if it only saves you some sleep at night.

  19. Alex SImon

    This list was hilarious to read. To be honest, I was that “Mommy’s Boy” at one point. It was less about being coddled and more to do with the fact that my mom is one of those people who’s way too good at everything. Heck, even now she’s acting as my boots on the ground, checking out prospective properties and catching things that the building inspectors miss. She walked into this unit three weeks ago, looked around real quick and asked, “how long ago was the grease fire?” Nobody, not the landlord or the property manager or anyone else, had even known about a fire, but my mom did the Sherlock thing and eventually the current tenant confessed to repainting the walls to cover up smoke damage.

    So in short, maybe that 30 year old man-child isn’t a waste at all. Maybe he just knows that his parent has mad skills 😛

  20. Todd Linton

    Thanks Kevin for the insightful and somewhat comical read. Been at this a couple of years now and you really do need to develop a sixth sense when dealing with applicants. The real problem is turning them down with high vacency rates. Hopefully I will think back to this article when tempted so thanks again.

  21. Dan Tukker

    Another one I look at on criminal background is petty items like several tickets for no insurance, expired license, driving without a license, etc. They paint a picture of irresponsibility. If they aren’t concerned about those items, why would they care about taking care of my property or paying their rent on time or even honoring a lease. Good read. Thanks.

  22. Mathew Giovanello

    I had professional tenants lie there way in, had two kids in high school in a nice upper class area totally bamboozled me and my realtor.
    The one thing looking back was the husband never showed up to sign the lease at the realtors office, she said he was working. The real reason was he was not presentable at all and I figure they had drug issues.
    Never again on that one, I want to meet both people and also full background check service. Trust but verify.

    Hard lesson learned, lost about 15k.

    She drove a nice brand new Cadillac Escalade though, wonderful people.

  23. Kimberly H.

    Honestly, the number of times I have been lied to by real estate agents representing tenants…

    Section 8 tenant left half the questions blank on an online application, her agent gave her a paper application. I tell the applicants agent via email, “She said she is a smoker so the app is rejected”, agent calls and says,”Oh, I talked to her, she made a mistake she doesn’t smoke” and I’m like “on TWO applications she made a mistake??? Yeah right.”

    Another, applicants agent asks, “Any applications in?” and I say,”Nothing active, but I have already rejected 5 due to eviction history or super low credit scores (as in below 520).” Applicants agent says with all the confidence in the world,”Oh, my clients are qualified”. So I get the apps, 60 yr old boyfriend and girlfriend want to move in together. Boyfriend lives in his mothers condo, girlfriend lives with her x-husband, her app says to not contact x-husband. Girlfriends credit score is like 500, 10 of 10 credit cards all charged off by bank or in collections, 70k worth. Between the two of them only 2.6x rent, but no pay stubs submitted by boyfriend to verify half of that. I call the tenants agent….she admits that she told them she didn’t know if they would have enough income, and that the girlfriend seemed like a “train wreck”, and that I couldn’t contact the x-husband because he was still the girlfriend applicants husband, the divorce hadn’t even started and husband didn’t know she was leaving him, and that’s why I couldn’t call.

  24. Bernie Neyer

    I think it would be a first if I found a prospective tenant that didn’t complain about their present landlord not repairing things. That is why I refer to myself as a slum lord. If we aren’t now, we will be when are tenants move.

  25. John Murray

    There is one more the narcissist, most are very difficult to deal with. The world revolves around them and they are the most dangerous when they run out money. Some are perfectionist, some are mom’s favorite and others are a combination of all things entitled because they lack empathy. Unfortunately there is no cure for this condition, you have to have a work around.

  26. Akintola Dasilva

    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.

  27. Donna Coffman on

    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!

  28. Romilda P Smith

    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.

  29. Rob D.

    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

  30. Jamie Jaramillo

    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.

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