We've all been there. It's time to fill a vacancy, and the tenant screening process begins. Securing a responsible tenant can save you potential headaches in the future, so what are the most important things to watch out for during the first showing? What questions should you ask prior landlords? We've done all the research for you and uncovered the top five red flags to be aware of during the screening process.

Red Flag #1: Failing to Provide Photo Identification
Tenants with weak credit scores and spotty financial pasts may attempt to use the identity of someone else to secure a rental. Well-meaning friends or relatives of the applicant may even offer permission to use their name and identity on applications for a tenant screening. Don't be fooled by this common practice. Always ask for a valid photo ID during the screening process to dissuade potential fraudsters. Better yet, ask for two forms of identification.

Red Flag #2: Hurrying the Process
Does your applicant seem to be in a big rush to move in? Are they trying to hurry the screening process? This could be a potential red flag, so don't get swept away. Always take the time to thoroughly vet your applicant. Hurried applicants may be in the process of being evicted, so be sure to check up with their current landlord. Pushy applicants may also be hiding something on their application, and they want to move in before you take the time to figure out what the real story is.

Red Flag #3: Bad-mouthing Previous Landlords
Is your applicant complaining about their previous landlord? Strained landlord/tenant relationships usually begin over disputes about money or ongoing behavioral problems. If you hear any complaints from the applicant, it's critical to speak with their previous landlord to understand all sides of the issue. If the previous landlord mentions unpaid rent or not respecting the rules, this is a huge red flag.

Red Flag #4: Poor First Impression
First impressions always matter, and certain things won't show up on a tenant screening, so it's important to look for subtle clues during the first showing. Always ask applicants to bring everyone who will be living in the home to come to the showing. Be sure to observe the dynamics between the residents. Arguing and criticizing among the applicants is a bad sign. Also take note of how well the applicants take care of their personal property. For example, if the applicants come with an unwashed and neglected car, this is a telltale sign that they do not value property. Do the applicants wipe their shoes before entering? If they're not going to take care of their own property or wipe their feet, they probably won't take good care of a rental unit. Also, are the applicants late to the showing without providing a legitimate reason? This is a sign that the applicants may not respect the rules in the future.

Red Flag #5: Criticizing the Property
Ideally, you want tenants who are overjoyed about their new home, not ones who will constantly call you with complaints. Are the applicants criticizing the property during the first showing when they haven't even moved in yet? This is a sign of problems to come. They may be the type of person who is constantly dissatisfied or they may be fishing for reasons not to have to pay the rent. Either way, this is not someone you want to have living on your property.

POSTED January 20 2015 10:45 AM

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