You can get a good feel of a prospective tenant by having a phone conversation with them before meeting, but there are some things that you won't figure out until you have a rental application in hand. These applications are an important part of the screening process, but some landlords simply accept these applications at face value. There are numerous red flags that may not stand out, but if you ignore these tell-tale signs, you could be in for a world of hurt.
Numerous Mistakes on Rental Application
It's understandable to make a mistake on a rental application. After all, who can remember the exact dates of all of their previous employment? And although it seems unlikely, it's entirely plausible that an individual may accidentally switch out a digit when inputting their house number or zip code from a previous address.
However, if these mistakes start stacking up, it may be a bad sign. If the application seems to be filled with inaccurate addresses, wrong phone numbers, incorrect dates and other mistakes, it's important to be especially vigilant.
There are online property management tools that can assist with things like residency history and criminal background checks, so catching these inaccuracies and even discovering the potential reasoning behind them shouldn't be too difficult.
Inability to Provide Proof of Current Address
A prospective tenant will undoubtedly fill out the "Current Address" section of the rental application, but this doesn't necessarily mean that they're being honest. This is why it's important to request a utility bill, former lease agreement, or some other form of documentation proving that they are currently at that residence.
If they're unable to comply with this simple request, you should consider it a red flag. It could very well mean that they don't want you to get into contact with their current or former landlord. This could be because they're in the middle of an eviction process, or it's possible that the former landlord is trying to track down the tenant for unpaid rent. This isn't always the case, but this red flag should compel you to dig a little deeper.
Once again, it's easy for a person interested in your property to accidentally overlook a question on the rental application. Of course, this is easily remedied by pointing it out and asking for the information. If for some reason the prospective tenant doesn't want to provide this information, however, it's probably best to just turn them down.
Refusing to fill out the entirety of the application could be indicative of a bad rental history, a recent criminal past, attempted identity theft, or just outright apathy. Regardless of the reason, save yourself time and money and just move on to the next prospective tenant.
Issues with Past Addresses
As previously mentioned, failing to provide a current address is a huge red flag, but it's not the only address issue that should catch your eye. Is their current address the same as their emergency contact's address? Do you recognize their provided address as being in a commercial district? These could mean that the individual lives with their parents or at a motel, respectively.
The simple truth is that, in a majority of cases, staying at a motel or with family is a last resort. This often occurs if a tenant received a cure/quit or was evicted by a former landlord.
In the end, no single red flag means that a prospective tenant will be a bad fit. If these flags seem to be piling up, though, or one especially incongruous catches your attention, it would serve you well to do a little more research. The additional time spent now could save you serious headaches later down the line.
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