Suspicious tenant - potential illegal activities?

19 Replies

Hello BP!

I just signed the lease with a tenant today. We signed via zoom because he is out of state. Here is the back story:

I do room rentals near UNCG in Greensboro, NC. I am also living in one of the rooms at the property that I am leasing out. The wife of the tenant called me a few days ago, looking for a place for her husband to stay in Greensboro, NC. She said he's a truck driver that is constantly delivering between Greensboro, NC and Chicago, IL. And said that he needs a place to stay on the weekends maybe a few days out of the month. So I had them fill out the application via avail. Background and credit check seemed good. The only thing that was a flag was that he had an eviction judgement against him at his current residence. I asked him about it and he explained the situation and said he caught up and settled the case. He is still living at that same residence and has been there for the past 8 years.

I accepted his application last night and today we did the lease signing. He wanted the lease to start as soon as possible and last for 4 months. While we were doing the lease signing on zoom, he said a few things that seemed a little strange to me. He said he would be there in 3-4 weeks but wanted to go ahead and set up his mail to be delivered to my house. He said it would be things like bank and other bills - but I have my suspicion. Why set the lease to start tomorrow if he wont be utilizing the room for another 3-4 weeks? It seems like he just wants a place to send the mail. And he also asked several times how the mail situation works and wanted to make sure none of the other roommates will touch his mail. I told him no problem, I'll hold onto it and give it to you when you arrive.

The whole situation seems quite odd to me. Pay $605 a month for a room but only use it a few times out of the month. But at the same time, receive all your mail at the property. He has signed the lease and has initiated ACH payment for first month rent and security deposit. I have not signed the lease yet and I am wondering if I should back out now and return his money when it comes through or if I can possibly cancel it? Or if I should just continue business as normal. I saw him and his wife on zoom and they seem like normal people, but it is just a very strange situation and I don't fully understand it.

Seems somewhat strange about the mail.  If you were in TX or FL I would assume he was doing it for residency for no state income tax.  What also caught me off guard is you being more concerned about his mail preferences than his recent eviction which would have been a hard pass for most on here.  You also accepted deposit and first month rent through ach which is incredibly easy to reverse which is why I only accept certified funds.  The story sounds appealing, house hacking with someone who won't be around much and somewhat makes sense for a truck driver as it is cheaper than a hotel.  I hope it works out for you if you decide to continue.  I would think once they signed and sent payment it is going to be much harder to back out but that also depends on how hard they choose to fight it.  

Typically I like to do certified funds for the first month rent and security deposit but I am not sure how to do that when they are signing virtually, aside from having it sent via snail mail.

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Originally posted by @John Doss :

Hello BP!

I just signed the lease with a tenant today. We signed via zoom because he is out of state. Here is the back story:

I do room rentals near UNCG in Greensboro, NC. I am also living in one of the rooms at the property that I am leasing out. The wife of the tenant called me a few days ago, looking for a place for her husband to stay in Greensboro, NC. She said he's a truck driver that is constantly delivering between Greensboro, NC and Chicago, IL. And said that he needs a place to stay on the weekends maybe a few days out of the month. So I had them fill out the application via avail. Background and credit check seemed good. The only thing that was a flag was that he had an eviction judgement against him at his current residence. I asked him about it and he explained the situation and said he caught up and settled the case. He is still living at that same residence and has been there for the past 8 years.

I accepted his application last night and today we did the lease signing. He wanted the lease to start as soon as possible and last for 4 months. While we were doing the lease signing on zoom, he said a few things that seemed a little strange to me. He said he would be there in 3-4 weeks but wanted to go ahead and set up his mail to be delivered to my house. He said it would be things like bank and other bills - but I have my suspicion. Why set the lease to start tomorrow if he wont be utilizing the room for another 3-4 weeks? It seems like he just wants a place to send the mail. And he also asked several times how the mail situation works and wanted to make sure none of the other roommates will touch his mail. I told him no problem, I'll hold onto it and give it to you when you arrive.

The whole situation seems quite odd to me. Pay $605 a month for a room but only use it a few times out of the month. But at the same time, receive all your mail at the property. He has signed the lease and has initiated ACH payment for first month rent and security deposit. I have not signed the lease yet and I am wondering if I should back out now and return his money when it comes through or if I can possibly cancel it? Or if I should just continue business as normal. I saw him and his wife on zoom and they seem like normal people, but it is just a very strange situation and I don't fully understand it.

when I was in the timber business in Oregon and lived in the Napa Valley .. I rented a one bed apartment in Portland for 800 a month or so.. and used it 9 nights a month..  I simply did not like to have to pack a bag and it was much nicer to have cloth's there which in winter was much heavier than Napa valley.. And I could just run onto the plane with never lugging a bag ..

hotel at the time was 100 bucks or so a night and you had to check in and all of that... so paying utls was a little more than having the hotel room..

So that does not seem that odd to me.  since I did it for 9 years. Go a boat load of frequent flyer miles.. I figure it cost me about 1700 a month for this set up as at the time I just really liked Napa and did not want to live in Oregon full time..  my kids were in school there etc. this was Circa 1992 to 2001. rents did not move much in PDX those years today I bet that apartment is 1500.00

I'd be more concerned that he is being evicted than I would be about the mail. People who are from out of town and in a hurry and are being evicted are trouble. I'd give him back his money and tell him you won't be going ahead.  

Concerned about who sees and who can mess with his mail, and I assume this means packages as well:

I would pay close attention to where and from whom that mail is coming from.

It could be he still has his current place and doesn't have to move out for a few weeks or that his schedule is such that he can't move now.  The question I'd have is why isn't the mail going to his wife's house?

How long ago was the eviction?

You've already signed the lease. He may have a very legit reason for wanting to receive mail there, or he could be up to no good. He could be hauling drugs. Or he could be hauling previous medicine to local hospitals. The point is, you don't know and shouldn't be digging into someone's business just because you don't understand it. If it really weighs on you so much and you want to police the activities of your tenants, just honestly tell him that you're not comfortable and demand an explanation.

He has signed the lease, but I haven’t signed it yet. I am asking him today for clarification. @Nathan G. that would be my concern - that he may be using it for some potential illegal activity.

And as far as I know, his wife and him still have the primary residence residence in Chicago. He said he just needs a place to stay for a few weekends while he’s traveling in between the places.

@John Doss

I'm with @Bjorn Ahlblad . I would have denied him once I found out he had an eviction judgement against him at his current residence. Also, people that are looking to move on an aggressive timeline are a big red flag to me. Move on and find a new tenant. It's really a matter of risk/reward. Are you unable to find a better tenant? What was the explanation for the eviction judgement?

@John Doss the only logical reason for getting mail at the address is to establish residency. I doubt it is for tax reasons, since IL and NC are not much different at the state level. There could be licensing reasons or it could be to qualify for in-state college admission or tuition. 

The eviction is very concerning and that would have been immediate denial for me. You have already accepted him as a tenant and taken money. You really can't back out at this point, so I would just monitor the situation carefully. 

I had someone who wanted to stay at my AirBNB and asked to get mail there. They wanted to establish residency in my state. Probably for tax reasons, because we have no state income tax. I told them no, because residency requires living in the state. I am not knowingly participating in fraud.

@John Doss I’m a big believer in trusting your ‘gut’ instinct. That as well as what other mentioned regarding the eviction. You don’t always have to know why xyz about someone or a situation but just trust your instincts.

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Lots of guessing and assumptions.  How about you just ask?  If you don't like what you hear/see then take the next steps but I would start with some old fashion in person communication.  

Wow. It sounds like you are living in the property so this could be as much a roommate as a tenant. I’d totally trust my gut on this, and I’ve found trusting your gut, is pretty important in all facets of real estate (and life for that matter).

Maybe, it was strange because you have never done it. I have been homeless a few times in life, so having a place to receive mail is important. Even now, I have a PO Box I visit maybe 3 times a year - catches all the marketing materials everyone wants to send me. 99% of it goes from my PO Box to the trash can near the door, before I even leave the lobby. 


You also want to make sure the other renters in that unit are going to be safe. Yes ask him what's going on with the mail situation and also ask for references (if it's not too late). If he can't give you references, that is a red flag. If the references don't know him well or give bad referrals, also red flags. Trust your instincts. 

Originally posted by @John Doss :

He has signed the lease, but I haven’t signed it yet. I am asking him today for clarification. @Nathan G. that would be my concern - that he may be using it for some potential illegal activity.

And as far as I know, his wife and him still have the primary residence residence in Chicago. He said he just needs a place to stay for a few weekends while he’s traveling in between the places.

There you go. Clarification already received. 

Or are you expecting to have some sort of Perry Mason moment where under your questioning he slips up and admits to being an Al Qaeda operative using your address to receive shipments of plutonium? He needs a STR and wants to securely get mail there for any one of a thousand reasons.

@John Doss   this is a multiroom rental situation. I completely understand his mail concern.  I know when my son was in a boarding house mail was horrible.  I am not sure who took it but nothing every reached him. Insurance policy, car registrations, nothing.  It is not at all surprising to ask this.  You could ask if he is waiting for something specific that he would like you to notify him about?  Could be a license/registration.  He also may be signing early because its hard to find a room like this and the early signing secures the place for him.   As a truck driver I am not sure if there are other advantages to NC vehicle registration.  Car registrations are based on where the vehicle primarily is, not sure about commercial trucks.