As a landlord, it’s clear that not all tenants are created equal. Some don’t pay their rent, some break their lease and others are perfectly reasonable tenants who pay their rent on time. Often, you can save yourself some serious hassle by screening them thoroughly from the very beginning. Often, the warning signs are subtle and other times there’s a big red flag that should be obvious to any landlord. Here are seven warning signs that you need to pay attention to for every applicant.

1. A Poor Application
Every tenant should be placed through a rigorous application process. If an applicant leaves important parts of an application blank, makes a lot of excuses about inconsistent aspects of their application, or have a spotty work history, then you should seriously consider giving this applicant a pass. In some states, applicants may also refuse to give you certain financial information, such as their bank statement. This is usually a warning sign that the applicant may have some financial problems they don’t want you to know about.

2. The Applicant Interview Goes Badly
When you sit down with an applicant to discuss apartment details and start the application process, you might get some real warning signs. The applicant might want to not only incessantly haggle on the price of rent but may even ask you to drop the rent before they even see the apartment. The applicant might come off as needy, rude, or demanding, and they might even challenge the fact they have to take a credit check.

3. The Apartment Showing Goes Poorly
You might also get some warning signs while you’re showing the apartment. If they’re complaining about every feature in your apartment, it probably means they’ll be complaining later once they’re a tenant or might even be trying to drag the rent price down. You should also be wary of applicants who show up significantly late for an apartment showing, which might mean they’re not a very dependable person.

4. They Ask Questions About Late Payments
If the applicant is already asking about what kind of penalties there will be for a late payment, it could mean trouble. Either they’re wondering what they can get away with or they’re simply not confident that they’ll be able to pay up on time every month.

5. A Real Lack of References
References can be an important factor when it comes to renting to a tenant. Unfortunately, if an applicant doesn’t have any references or only offers references to people that they’re related to, then it should raise a serious red flag. If you think that a tenant is not being entirely upfront, it’s also not a bad idea to ask for an employer’s number or a letter from an employer that will serve as a recommendation.

6. Previous Convictions or Evictions
As a part of the screening process, you should be running a thorough background check. A conviction or eviction are classic signs that a tenant might be trouble that you want to avoid.

7. Give Their Car A Quick Look
Not all landlords will have a chance to look at an applicant’s car, but if you get the opportunity, it might tell you a lot. If the car looks like it’s in bad condition, has rust on the exterior, and the backseat is full of garbage or plenty of clutter, it’s probably a sign that this particular tenant won’t keep your apartment in great condition either.
You should always make sure you aren't discriminating against a tenant during the screening process, but only stick to legal reasons why you would reject a tenant. Ultimately, as a landlord, you need to be taking steps to protect yourself from bad tenants. Use the above warning signs to keep yourself from ending up with a tenant that will drive you nuts and potentially cost you serious money.

POSTED June 18 2015 11:57 AM

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