Warning Signs: Five Things to Watch Out for in Potential Tenants

Nowadays, landlords often find themselves screening potential tenants via phone and Skype interviews.

While these long-distance interviews can be convenient for both the landlord and the potential tenant, it can be difficult to adequately screen tenants without ever meeting them face to face.

Fortunately, there are many ways to spot potential red flags during a phone or Skype interview and ensure that you wind up with a high-quality, responsible and desirable tenant.

Watch out for these five warning signs as you conduct your next distance-based rental interview:

1) The potential tenant "beats around the bush"
If you ask a question such as "What is your reason for moving?" and the potential tenant launches into a long and involved backstory rather than answering the question directly - beware.

Although drawn-out answers do not always indicate a poor tenant, they hint at the fact that the tenant is attempting to hide or downplay something in their history.

Encourage tenants to address questions directly and don't be afraid to probe for deeper answers if something feels amiss.

2) The potential tenant has moved annually for several years
House-hopping is an undesirable trait in tenants.

In addition to leaving landlords constantly conducting walkthroughs, refunding deposits, fixing possible damage and searching for new tenants, having a tenant that house-hops may increase the chances of broken leases and illegal subletting.

When you ask about a tenant's rental history, pay attention to how often, on average, they have moved over the last three years.

If you come across someone who has moved often, inquire about why.

Although house-hopping can and often does indicate an irresponsible tenant, it can also be the unfortunate product of increasing rental prices, shifting roommates, or unforeseen family circumstances, so it is important for landlords to listen to a tenant's explanations in order to avoid misunderstandings.

3) The potential tenant is evasive
One of the largest red flags during a phone or Skype interview is a potential tenant who acts evasive or nervous about a question that has been asked.

For example, if you ask how many people will be living on the property and the potential tenant tries to sidestep the question or gives a very foggy answer, you need to pay close attention as it is likely the tenant is hiding something.

Additionally, landlords need to proceed cautiously if a tenant seems nervous, distracted or intoxicated during the digital interview.

Although these things are rare, they often point to an undesirable tenant.

4) The potential tenant is in a hurry
If a potential tenant seems hurried, desperate, or rushed during a Skype or phone interview, you should recognize this as a red flag.

Although it is possible that the tenant may be facing abuse or other extenuating circumstances at home, it is also possible that they are facing eviction and are actively seeking a new place to live.

Look for further clues during the interview and do not be afraid to ask the tenant why he or she is in such a rush to find a rental.

5) The potential tenant questions the need for a background check
Tenant screening is  are a standard part of most rental applications and many potential tenants will consent to a background check without any fuss.

If your interviewee questions the need for a background check or flat-out refuses to consent to one, however, you may be in trouble.

While some people object to background checks on strictly philosophical grounds, most potential tenants who will not consent to one are attempting to hide something, such as a criminal record.

Although it can be difficult to screen potential tenants during increasingly tech-based interviews, being aware of these common red flags can help you ensure that you lease your space to a responsible and desirable tenant.

Posted on Jun 24, 2015


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