Landlording & Rental Properties

7 Types of Tenants I’ll 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 us, we’ve rented to them all! Over the past several years, there are certain character types we’ve learned to quickly run away from. These traits are not invisible and can usually be discovered by doing thorough tenant screening prior to approving a new tenant. Tenant screening involves more than verifying that your tenant earns an adequate income, has some references, and hasn’t murdered anyone. You also need to make sure they aren’t going to drive you crazy while they are your tenant! Hopefully this list of seven “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.

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7 Types of Tenants I’ll Never Rent to

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 he 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.

Related: The 4 Types of Horrible Tenants (& How to Deal With Their Shenanigans)

3. Lazy Laura

Laura hasn’t held a job in more than six years because her employers 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. 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 her boyfriend Dirty Dan, leaving the landlord with a mess and no rent.

4. Dave the Dealer

Dave the Dealer doesn’t seem like such a bad tenant—on the surface. 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 ‘80s 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 the 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 gets 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 for landlords. He doesn’t have the business sense that Dave the Dealer has, so he sim-
ply consumes the goods that Dave 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 seen Steve jogging around the block in nothing but his underwear, waving a plunger. With only lava lamps to light the way, Steve tends to keep to himself in his dark apartment, Power Ranger bed sheets strung across every window making sure it’s generally as dark as possible inside his place.

Steve eventually loses his job, but decides that there’s a better alternative 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 Larry the Lawyer may not be the kind of tenant we want in our properties. Why? 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 rentals out there where Larry might live—we just don't want him in ours.


Related: 5 Expert Tips to Attract Cream-of-the-Crop Tenants

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 will let bugs 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 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.

Whew! Of course, this was meant to be exaggerated, but the fact remains: There are certain types of tenants you simply do not want to deal with. If there is one lesson we've learned as landlords, it's this: Wait for the right tenant and screen everyone, even if they seem nice at the beginning. We do not advocate ever discriminating against a tenant for any of the protected classes, but this doesn't mean you need to accept the first tenant who shows interest in your property.

By rushing and putting in a tenant who will cause you months or years of headaches, you are only costing yourself more money and stress in the long run. Do your due diligence with every prospective tenant. Dig into their background, their credit, their previous landlord references, their social media, their job history, and anything else you can (legally) find, 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.

[This article is an excerpt from Brandon Turner’s The Book on Managing Rental Properties.]

Which characters from the above list have you encountered? Have some usual suspects of your own?

Let me know with a comment!

Brandon Turner is an active real estate investor, entrepreneur, writer, and co-host of the BiggerPockets Podcast. He is a nationally recognized leader in the real estate education space and has tau...
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    Kathryn Gingras Real Estate Investor from Martintown, Ontario
    Replied over 3 years ago
    Dealing with a “fun” issue right now! Met the potential tenants, who looked fine the two times we met… to sign the lease. Did Background checks, etc… all was a go. THEN went over to their place to sign the lease, went through the whole thing, signed it, gave them a copy (my first mistake) and then stood up and asked for the last month’s rental deposit upon signing which was the deal, only to have them turn to me and say “We do not have the money, the car needed repair, and without a car he cannot get to work”. I SHOULD have asked for the lease back right away but I was floored, tongue tied (and fairly new to this landlord business) and stumbled out of the door wondering what the heck I was supposed to do now??? Lease was signed, legal agreement? No? My lawyer drafted a letter for us, stating that because we do not actually own the house we are renting out yet (take possession obviously before tenants move in) the lease we signed is null and void as it is illegal to rent out a property you do not own. So. We will head over there with letter in hand for them to sign receipt of and acknowledge and hopefully they will back off and fade into the sunset. My fear is they will go running to the rental board screaming bloody murder and the rental board make us rent to them!! I was just shocked at how, even though they knew I was expecting a deposit upon signing, they causally used the rent money to pay for a car repair!! With no shame!! I totally blew it with this couple!!
    Erik W. Real Estate Investor from Springfield, MO
    Replied over 3 years ago
    Good list and one I’ve found true on many occasions, thankfully before I rented to said person. One of the most useful “screening” tools I’ve started using is the in-home visit. Yes, literally show up on the doorstep where they live and screen their home. This is how you find Dirty Dan and Lazy Laura. A wise man once said, “Whatever their house looks like and smells like now, that’s what your house will look like and smell like 2-3 months after move in. The excuse to drop by can be anything. “Dan, I need to take a picture of your dog for insurance…” “Laura, we just need to sign this release to finalize your application…” Ask to step inside for a minute. It shouldn’t take long. You’ll quickly see, hear, and smell most of what you need to, even if you only get as far as the front door. For applicants who are overly nervous or insisting you can’t drop by their place at all….RUN! That’s your clue.
    Replied over 3 years ago
    Agree with this one Erik! But I’ve also discovered that simply accompanying them to their car is often enough. If the car is filthy – your rental will be too!
    Tim Boehm Investor from Tillamook, Oregon
    Replied over 3 years ago
    That hasn’t worked for me, we rented to a lady and child, she was dressed to the nines, owned a spotless car and was the biggest pig you could ever imagine. Lots of people I have found will as my father used to say “shine their shoes in the front”
    Maggie Tasseron Investor from Palm Desert, California
    Replied over 3 years ago
    I love your father’s quote! Have met a few “front shiners’ in my landlording days…
    Bernie Neyer Investor from Chanute, Kansas
    Replied over 3 years ago
    I like saying, “If they’re living in a dump, they’re going to bring it with them when they move.” What I’ve seen in the above, is that they are all pretty much the same person. If they use drugs, they are usually lazy, dirty, dramatic and think they’re entitled. The type that is missing is Lying Lisa. I just evicted someone who couldn’t tell the truth about ANYTHING, especially why the rent was late. She wasn’t a user, but thought she was entitled to everything and a continual victim. She actually blamed me because she couldn’t pay the rent. I didn’t get that at all, but it fit into her victim status that she was innocent and I was a nasty old landlord. I kind of tick some landlords off, when I call myself a slum lord. Landlords insist they’re not, but if you listen to tenants ALL landlords are slum lords. When I ask a tenant why they are moving, inevitably it works around to a phrase, “He doesn’t fix anything.” If they are saying that about their present landlord, I guarantee when they move from your place, they are saying about you.
    Darren Sager Investor from Summit, NJ
    Replied over 3 years ago
    Great article Brandon! What about Sam the Smoker? Most don’t realize the damage that smokers can do to a rental unit and they’re at least not a protected class so you can without issue not allow them into your rental units.
    Viola Enfield from Austin, Texas
    Replied over 3 years ago
    My brother started having allergy issues after renting an apartment that had previously been occupied by heavy smokers. The apartment was clean, but the cigarette smoke had infiltrated the paint. There was no carpet, thankfully.
    Alex Craig Real Estate Professional from Memphis, TN
    Replied over 3 years ago
    Paul the preacher and Carl the Code Inspector should be there.
    Tim Boehm Investor from Tillamook, Oregon
    Replied over 3 years ago
    Another great article Brandon. A few of the previous people who commented fill out the loser list, and when I say loser I mean the property owner. I’ve had all of them at one time or another.
    Tina S. Investor
    Replied over 3 years ago
    Great article – I will keep this one close to me since I am a new landlord but I do understand the games- I use to work in law firms that specialized in landlord tenant law.
    John Fedro Investor from Austin, Texas
    Replied over 3 years ago
    Hahaha.. I loved this article! Great work poking a little fun at these types of folks. Talk soon, John
    Marian Nanney
    Replied over 3 years ago
    Love it! Forewarned is Forearmed!
    Maggie Tasseron Investor from Palm Desert, California
    Replied over 3 years ago
    Great article Brandon! Sadly, it’s not all that exaggerated! The only thing I could add is that, as we gain experience as landlords, we also gain an instinct for people. Every single tenant who I was dubious about for no particular reason that could be verified on paper turned out to be just that…dubious. To carry forward your considerable talent for alliteration, I call it being a shit-sniffer.
    Christopher Smith Investor from brentwood, california
    Replied over 3 years ago
    I’m sure most of us have a story, so here is mine. The Peter & Paul tenant This guy was actually OK for about 3 years. Paid late on occasion, but always paid including a modest late fee without objection. However, there was a cancer growing within that rapidly began to metastasize in the 3rd year. This guy had apparently been borrowing from just about everyone in the local phone book to make the monthly rent. We knew he had borrowed from his Mother, but that was just the tip of a Titanic sized using Peter to pay Paul ice berg. In any event, he finally hit the wall when there were no more potential creditors standing in the suckers line and then came up with a bogus story about how he would be coming into a massive tax refund if we could hold on another 2 months and we would all be square. Well we took the bait with predictable results, nothing. Right after we sent him packing (the only eviction we have ever had), we went to clean out his mail box and it took a banker’s box to carry off all of the debt collection letters. He also modestly trashed the place, drove through the garage door with his car (not sure if that was intentional or not, but he made no effort to fix it if it was not). Had to replace most of the carpet and repaint most of the walls. Apparently running out of prospective sponge targets put him in a pretty bad mood. Lesson learned, we ever in get a whiff that a tenant is borrowing to pay rent they go on the close watch list and will be asked to leave immediately upon missing a rent payment beyond the provided late period. No excuses will be entertained.
    Brian Ploszay Investor from Chicago, ILLINOIS
    Replied over 3 years ago
    Good article. I try to find past behaviors that may predict a tenant to stay a long time. I love having 5 plus year stays.
    Senthil N. Investor from Austin, Texas
    Replied over 3 years ago
    As others have commented, there are the 7 you said plus 17 more, if not 70 variations and combinations. And sometimes good folks get into a bad situation as well. So how do you really tell? I don’t think there is a way to screen for this effectively. And even if there were, I am sure it would not be legal. In the end good credit and past history speak volumes. Folks who leave with landlord picking up after them, generally don’t have good credit or references. So, it’s really back to the basics that is practical and legal.
    Replied over 3 years ago
    I agree, as someone who is yet to be a landlord, how do you “decline” someone for these reasons and not wind up with a lawsuit?
    Ernest Grindle Rental Property Investor from Suffolk, VA
    Replied over 3 years ago
    Awesome post Brandon. Very creative and entertaining. Good job. I’ll be on the look out for any of these suspects.
    Whitney Tutt Investor from Mableton, Georgia
    Replied over 3 years ago
    Great article! I have to agree, very creative and entertaining. Thank you!
    Art Veal Investor from South Holland, Illinois
    Replied over 3 years ago
    Funny article. I swear I was going to read this and disagree with at least one of the types of tenants but “NOPE” You are right on every single one of them. I would try and avoid every type you mentioned if I can. Good article!
    Heather Dunn
    Replied over 3 years ago
    We are currently dealing with Bob the Builder. We made the mistake of letting him paint and do some light repairs in exchange for a deduction from his rent. He’s nearly rebuilt the entire house now and still finding things to do to avoid paying full rent. Not only is it the nicest house in the neighborhood, but we aren’t seeing a return on our investment. #fail
    Replied over 3 years ago
    I’ve made the biggest mistake. I rented out to Dirty Dan and his girlfriend Lazy Laura. She’s a stay at home mom with 3 kids, yet the house is never cleaned and the backyard look worse than the properties strike by Hurricane Katrina. But it gets worse. Dirty Dan also happen to be a woman beater and now has a restraining order on him. Juggling between paying for his own place and his girlfriends place, he is completely broke. Leaving me with a giant mess, no rent, and an unemployed single mother with 3 dirty Dan junior. Here’s some simple tips I picked up. Don’t rent to people who’s job is “contract” or “seasonal”. What contract mean is they can be out of work any minute, why would you ever want to rent to someone like this. If they have colourful hair dye they are horrible toxic people; stay away. How do I know this? Creatures walk around bright colours do so to warn others that they are poisonous. If they can’t give you the full damage deposit before moving in = no rent – ZERO exception.