Warning signs an applicant might not be the best

20 Replies

I've had lots of showings and met probably hundreds of applicants over the 5 years I've been a landlord.  And I've noticed that there are some signs that signal you that an applicant might not be the best candidate, before even checking them out further.

Now, you need to check out tenants' backgrounds, because you don't want to be accused of discrimination, but I tend to notice that when I see these signs, I find something about the tenant that disqualifies them as they don't meet my rental criteria.


- Looks around the place for 5 seconds then immediately wants to apply.  This tells me they just want "somewhere" but do not care where.  Not caring is a bad sign.

- Tells you before even seeing the place that they have cash in hand for a security deposit and first month's rent.

- When they call to ask you about the place, immediately ask how far back you check for evictions.

- Asks if you require double security deposits for tenants with "bad credit".

- Starts the conversation with "well I have an eviction but I can explain".

- Doesn't put down their own birth date on the application correctly.

- For "date available to start rental term" they put down today's date.

Does anyone else have any warning signs of potential bad tenants?

great topic, thanks for starting. I will be screening my first set hopefully next month so I will be watching this thread carefully.

I just thought of another one.

- When they say they are "staying with family" and have been for the past 2 years, but all their pay stubs and proof of income show a different address.

Great thread-

Here's one I just came across-

Misses 3 pm appointment, then later that night I get this e mail:

"The occupants showed us the apartment at 3pm. My girlfriend and I liked it a lot. I'd like to apply to rent it if it is still available.

It is listed for $1,030/month for 12 months. Are you authorized to haggle over the price?
$1,030 rent x 12 payments = $12,360

I would prefer 1 payment of $10,500 for the year, but that is negotiable. I don't have to worry about writing 11 extra checks, and you don't have to worry about late payments."

Um... No.  

When they check out the basement first, it means they will be having other people stay with them.

If they say they love this place and they could live here forever.  (They mean without ever paying rent)

If they drive up and have a ton of people in the car.  Every one's kids !  Your home will be a play ground!  Or...day care center!

If they ask if they can pay part of their Security Deposit now and the rest after they move in.  (Can't afford your place)

If they don't want you to cash their check for the deposit on the place until after a certain date.   (Living from one week to the next)

Nancy Neville

When they give you a long-winded story about why they're moving.

When they trash-talk their current/past landlord, although I've learned that sometimes, these are legitimate stories. But still, trash talking a landlord and telling me how you're not going to pay the last month's rent to them typically doesn't sound good to me.

When they roll out of their vehicle in a plume of smoke, but tell you they will not smoke in the apartment (which was clearly advertised as non-smoking on the entire premises).

I don't rent to anyone that gets cranky with me over the phone, because "you are asking me too many personal questions and I haven't even seen it yet."

These are questions like: Where do you work? Do you make at least 3 times the rent? How many people will be living there? etc.

Anyone who has a "reason" for anything. 

"My credit is bad, but that is my ex-husband's fault."

They will have a "reason" for why the rent is late, every single month.

Originally posted by @Mindy Jensen :

Anyone who has a "reason" for anything. 

"My credit is bad, but that is my ex-husband's fault."

They will have a "reason" for why the rent is late, every single month.

 LOL.  Speaking as somebody who had an ex-husband that trashed her credit, I will say that it was completely my fault, not his.  Shoulda thrown the bum out MUCH sooner!

"My Credit is bad but I have a cosigner"

Originally posted by @Nancy Neville :

If they ask if they can pay part of their Security Deposit now and the rest after they move in.  (Can't afford your place)

 I've heard this one before!

When they smell of alcohol on their breath early in the day ...

When they say a relative of theirs owns a storefront property and business in town that has rental units upstairs - so why not rent from the relative?

Originally posted by @Chris G. :

"My Credit is bad but I have a cosigner"

And you forgot the part where they neglect to tell you the co-signer has bad credit too ... :)

When they ask if the utilities are included ( on a single family house) .

When they want you to work with them on the security deposit

Generally...bad credit...they have it for a reason.

I recently had what I thought was a solid applicant.  She made the decision process easy and the screening process interesting by providing me with a photo copy of her drivers license (as requested) but with the address blanked out with a Sharpee.  Sure enough, the closer I examined the application and tried to match information and dates with the internet and the credit report, the weaker the application became.  

Wow, @Willie Grega . Blacked out with a Sharpie? Did she think you wouldn't catch that? Good thing she made the decision process easy on you.

It is far better to have an empty apartment for one month, rather than fill it with a sub-standard tenant and spend several evicting and repairing... Work vacancies into your figures so you have enough cash flow.

I like to take a look at their vehicle when they show up to look at the property. If it is clean and organized, they will most likely treat their living area the same way. 

I don't care if it is a newer vehicle or a beater, most responsible people will occasionally wash even a cheap car and replace the tires before cords are showing through.

  • Applicant drives to your appointment but when you ask them for their Driver's License they don't have one, they only have a State ID.
  • Say they are looking at the place for someone else.  In this case, it's generally a "granddaughter" looking at the place for her "grandmother" which means the grandmother will be renting it for said granddaughter and her 6 children who cannot qualify to rent a place on their own.  Anyone looking at a place for someone else has always been a problem, in my experience.
  • I have to re-iterate the one above about "looking around the place for 30 seconds" then stating they are in love and wanting to rent it. This type has always been trouble for me. Serious, good tenants look around a lot, they have questions, they bring tape measures, they ask about the neighborhood, they CARE where they are going to live.
  • Too much information.  Similar to above about "stories".  If it takes too long to explain an answer to any question, there's usually trouble. If there is a "story" about any particular subject there's usually trouble. I don't know why this is, but the longer the explanation the more drama and lies that explanation seems to include.

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