Landlord’s Guide: How to Recognize Tenant Red Flags

tenant-red-flags

Out of all the tools of the trade, one of the most important skills a landlord must have is recognizing tenant red flags. Think of these as warning signs that could lead to problems with a tenant. 

Of course, that does not mean that a renter without red flags will always be the perfect tenant. Or that every renter with warning signals could be a problem tenant. In a recent Toronto ruling, for example, a tenant was convicted on three counts of fraud. He was notorious for showing up dressed well and with references, but when it came time to pay his rent he refused.

Eviction doesn’t just affect tenants. Head over to our eviction calculator to see how much it can cost you. This all goes to say that knowing the red flags can be invaluable. We’ll discuss some of the most important ways to uncover tenant red flags below. Let’s get going!

Singlekey’s 4 Ways to Discover Tenant Red Flags

1) Ask for Tenant Details (and Get Them on Record!)

Whenever you meet a prospective tenant, you should give them a rental application that covers the basics. This includes:

        • Current Address
        • Employer
        • Monthly Income
        • 3-5 Years of Residence History

It’s a good idea to follow up with their current employer and landlord to double-check that the information is valid. If the information doesn’t line up, that’s a red flag. Consider an unstable work history, lack of steady income, or reports of property damage as huge red flags as well.

Also, if you learn that the tenant was troublesome and bothered other renters in their last residence, that should set off your alarm bells. One unruly tenant can lead to fewer renters and less income.

2) Always Perform a Credit and Background Check

A credit check can reveal a tenant’s bad financial habits — and a big risk on your end. A poor credit score suggests an inability to pay bills or living above their means. 

But you don’t have to spend the time and effort to vet tenants manually. With SingleKey’s credit and background check, you can process tenant screening in minutes. The report also includes metrics that make it easier to understand the information Equifax reports on.

Our credit and background check reveals a wealth of information about tenants, such as:

        • Records of rent payments
        • Previous or ongoing collections
        • Bankruptcies
        • Past-due accounts

None of this information will give you a definitive answer about the tenant in question. But they will reveal some of the most important red flags you’ll encounter.

3) Never Rush to Fill a Vacancy

When it comes to renting, taking one’s time is a necessity for owners and tenants. When you rush to fill a vacancy, you can overlook the tenant evaluation. That’s not a wise decision. Screening tenants is a crucial step in the renting process.

Generally, renters start to look for apartments six to eight weeks before their moving date. If a tenant wants to move in right away, that could be an indication of upheaval, confusion, and lack of thought and planning in their lifestyle. This behavior can be a red flag for landlords who want a dependable and reliable tenant – and one who gives proper notice.

Similarly, if tenants indicate that they move frequently, they could turn out not to be ideal as a long-term tenant. Of course, they could have legitimate – even urgent – reasons for relocation. A single red flag shouldn’t be considered a black mark on their record. It does mean, however, that you should be on the lookout for other red flags, just in case.

4) Trust Your Gut

We’ve talked about how red flags can show up on paper through credit checks and employment history. But landlords can also make observations from interaction with the tenant – either in person, online, or during a phone conversation. 

If they are late for a viewing or careless about answering texts or emails – you guessed it – red flag. Of course, the savviest landlords avoid the extra stress and time required to vet tenants. Instead, they choose professionals like Singlekey to handle tenant screening.

Our Tenant Red Flag Rundown

Okay, so we’ve gone through lots of potential red flags. Here are some questions to ask as you decide on a tenant.

Key Takeaways

  • Does the applicant’s basic information match your research?
  • Do previous landlords or employers speak highly of them?
  • Does the credit and background check seem healthy?
  • Are they willing to move in at a reasonable time and date?
  • Do I feel good about the applicant in general?

Spotting Tenant Red Flags Easily with Singlekey

By following the steps above, we know you’ll have more success with tenants. But when it comes to property management, nothing is ever certain.

That’s why we set up the Singlekey Rent Guarantee. Signing up means you’ll get paid every month, no matter what happens to your tenant’s financial situation. You can find out how it works here.