Evictions - any good way to screen them

I am a sucker first of all. I run the credit check and background check, checked with the employer and landlord. Well, all looked fine, then he moves in and only pays 1 month rent.

I had to evict him - I was kind and extended a month to him thinking he was really having trouble, but it turns out he was a pathological liar. There was always something. Ok this was my first time and I just didn’t know the games out there.

Long story short I had to evict him, and have all his stuff moved into storage, and had to make lots of repair to the house, not to mention nothing could be stated till the pit bull was removed by the city which took 3 weeks. Wow was I at a loss of income from this property at this point of 3 months.

So in the future do you have any tips on how to spot gamesters. He screen out just fine and was so polite - how could I have avoided such a disaster. The whole ordeal cost me $9800.

I really pride myself in letting only great tenants into my properties. I have found great tenants to be one of the biggest motivators in Real Estate. The only times I really need to evict someone is when I first buy a property.

  1. Backround checks
  2. Call last two landlords
  3. Confirm Employment
  4. I always check with my tenants to see if they know this person, it is a small world and you would be surprised how many times my tenants have told me not to let someone in. Your tenants are probably your best defense against bad tenants.

Read a book called “Landlording”. It describes how to screen tenants, scams/gotchas to look out for, etc. It saved me a lot of heartache and pain.


If you have a lot of rentals, evictions are a normal part of life. You can do everything right and they can still turn bad. It happens all the time. I evict about 1% per month.

I did not hear you mention a criminal background check. A search of court records would show up previous evictions as well as a criminal background.

You made a huge mistake by not following the lease. Once you get more units, that can be a DISASTER! Letting tenants know that you are a weak landlord is an invitation to being abused.

From now on, follow the lease. Start the eviction process as soon as the tenant is late - ONE DAY LATE! Get educated on landlording so you don’t have another $9,800 mistake!!!


I closed on a SFH last Saturday. The seller left the property vacant for about 3 months because she couldn’t take having anymore bad tenants. She told me at the closing that the last tenant she had in the property was in there for 1 year and never paid rent, not once. She said the tenant before that was in there for a while and also never paid rent. In the 4 years she owned and managed the property she put in new carpet, new appliances, a new furnance in 2005, and a new roof in 2006.

For all her troubles over the 4-years I offered her $28,000 for her SFH and made her financing the entire loan over 5-years at which I will own it free and clear.

Everytime I buy a property it is always from a landlord who couldn’t manage their tenants, and now they are selling the property for nothing. Unless you want to be my next “Great Deal” or another investors “Great Deal”, you need to learn to manage your tenants.

Thanks all great tips. Yeah, from that first tenant I had I realized that excuses are a tactic for delays and to just not sympathize anymore! I learned that. I also learned that the last landlord will tell you anything to get rid of him, so you do have to go further. I like the idea of asking your tenants but I will have 46 in this building. I already created all kinds of forms, and one of them is a Notice to Pay or Quit. The onsite manager will be instructed to tape it to the door, put it under the door and mail it certified mail. I’m on overdrive now.
Thanks for books - I will certainly get them, including yours propertymanager.

Thanks, Jag

This message is for the guy with the name PropertyManager -
since I am out of state is there an online criminal check company you would recommend, or one that does all three checks that is not costly. The ones I find are about $20 per report - I would be spending $60 and I don’t think an applicant would want to give us $60 for the chance of getting a apartment to rent.

Thanks for books - I will certainly get them

I think that you should have done the studying BEFORE you lost $10K! With one tenant, you’ve taken a bigger loss than I’ve had in more than 3 years of operating rentals. IF you have done a cash flow analysis and IF you get $100 positive cash flow from every one of your 46 units, you just lost 2 months cash flow! OUCH!

There are a million places that you could have gotten the information to have prevented or greatly lessened the impact of this mistake. Yes, you could have gotten it from books. You could also have gotten the information FREE at your local REIA. This is serious business that most newbies do not survive. You are behind the curve - better step up the pace.


You got some good answers already. You win some, you lose some, from time to time, as good as you screen, bad ones get through.

Besides getting all the necessary reports, credit, employment, eviction etc, I do all the interviews myself, and I watch for body language for inconsistencies etc.

Story 1

A well dressed 50ish women banker came by, wanted a 2BR for herself. We screen by phone first with a friendly chat, not like an interview. Wife asks if she’ll have regular visitors. Answer: “Yes, my only daughter who just graduated medical school, and I’m awfully proud of her”.

When she came in person I asked her the same question and the answer? "“Yes, my only SON who just graduated medical school, and I’m awfully proud of him”.

We usually call to confirm employment, so I called the work number provided, left a message, she called back, and requested the number for personnel. Said it’s a small office, and gave me the number of her supervisor, I called back, and a nice gentlemen confirmed the salary, excellent employee, yada yayda. Still suspicious, I said to myself “let me check further”.

Knew someone who worked at the bank, and was provided the number of Corporate Personnel. Procedure is to call between 9:00AM and 11:00AM, provide a social security #. They’ll confirm if she works there, or ever worked there.

We called, and was told no record of her exists, either working there, or ever worked there with that number.

Called my friend back, he checked the corporate directlory, and tells me the bank does not even have a location listed as her place of business.

Called the lady back and told her we have trouble confirming info. Her answer “you don’t have to rent to me”.

One trick I learned years back is people use answering services for home and business numbers which she evidently used here. One way to check in the bigger cities like NYC is to see if the telephone exchange matches the locality of the job or home from the phone book. Another direct way is look up info in the phonebook, or call directory assistance even if you’re told that person has an unlisted number there.

Might be a different ballgame with VIOP nowadays.

Story 2

A nice couple came by with a young child, and would have his brother living there sharing expenses. Credit reports turned out clean. We were going to run the reports first, if everything is clean, they’re our top candidate.

Problem was four or five addresses listed for the last five years. So the wife called and said “we have to clarify some info on the credit reports”. Usually this might mean they been evicted more than once, and moved from place to place.

But the answer we got instead was “I thought the credit repair service cleaned everything up”

We wife was on her toes and said “exactly what was supposed to be cleaned up??” They told us what was not supposed to be there, and sure enough it wasn’t there." But we heard enough to know their credit was horrible.

When she asked what was on the report, our reply was “the law says we can’t comment on it, but we can say they cleaned up quite a bit of it”.

Story 3

The high priority is to rent to “easy to get along” types, not wiseguys, idiots, jerks etc.

My wife did the on site interview this time, and said the top candidate wanted to leave a deposit since he liked the place so much, and would I meet him as a favor to pick it up. I said I don’t want to make commitments, but I’ll take it on the condition I can return it. She said the man was polite, well spoken etc.

I met this man, and sensed that his politeness was just a facade, and the smile on his face was a false one. I learned a trick from a old boss to say something provocative at this point to see what happens. I said “you’re not one of those who’s going to have wild parties here, are you”??

His smile went away instantly, his face flushed red, and replied “who’s holding wild parties”?? A moment later, realizing what happened, he smiled again.

Told the wife later that night that something’s not quite right with this guy, and we should mail the $50.00 back immediately. When we called, he ranted, cursed, and said he’ll come by to kill us. Not the polite person he tried to portray.

The wife wanted to know how I knew his true character. I said his smile didn’t quite look right, his politeness seemed contrived and it’s really a very angry person underneath.

I have quite a number of these experiences through the years with scamsters.


Another good reason to manage the properties yourself. I agree with you completely. Once you’ve done this a while, you can pick out a scumbag from 50 paces.

Just yesterday, I had a couple come to look at one of my apartments. I was already at the building so I didn’t screen them on the telephone. Since I was laying carpet, I was not wearing my handgun (stupid). They had just gotten their Section 8 voucher and needed a place right away. (That always sets off alarm bells for me). At first glance, I knew they were trouble. As it turned out they were BOTH convicted felons!

In another development, a 17 year old kid was murdered just across the street from one of my rentals. The police haven’t announced the motive, but I have a hundo that says it was drugs.

It’s a dangerous world out there (and none of this happened in a war zone). Stay safe.


I use http://www.ntnnet.com/index2.html They have a report that tells if they have been evicted (criminal report) and when they move in I like most landlords using the system “move them in” on the system. When they move out I “move them out” on the system and state the reason eviction, late on rent, damage to property, didn’t turn in keys etc. this allows them to have a very large database of trouble tenants.

It’s so true you really have to look through their facade. It’s like they are on a job interview - they want it badly and turn on their charm, courtesy, and somewhat property english. They’ll tell you what they want you to hear, and the previous landlord is glad to get rid of them that they will cooperate, plus under the law the previous landlord can not say anything negative from what I hear. You have to build up thick skin and know that you’ll be encountering this plus threats of law suits. Now that part scares me. Two of my clients (I’m a realtor) had mold issues that not only emotionally tore them apart but also took them to the bank. It was horrible and gutt wrenching.

p.s. Is there any type of liability insurance we can get for mold?

When a tenant is a real scumbag, they will often say that the previous landlord wouldn’t take care of the house or that there was “BLACK MOLD” in the house. That’s an automatic disqualification in my book!

Just got back from cleaning the carpet in one of my apartments. A guy stopped by to look at the apartment. I asked him where he worked and he said he didn’t work. I said “you don’t look like your legs are broken, why don’t you work?”. He said, his girlfriend was very jealous and would cause trouble everytime he tried to work. So, he’s going in front of a judge next week to try to get SSDI. I told him to hit the road. SCUMBAG! I despise these lazy bums! I’ll let the apartment sit empty before I’ll put a scumbag like that in it. Yes, he had Section 8.

Jagster, there is no law that I know of against telling the truth. When other landlords call about an applicant, I tell them the truth. If the tenant was a scumbag - I say so!


I agree with you - I rather let a place sit vacant and lose that money than to lose money defending yourself with a loser! I just wish I was in the city to screen all the people in person. I trust that the on-site manager who has been there for 3 years will continue to do as good a job as he can.

If you operate thru a “property manager”, then make some rules that is to be followed.

I’m sure you have ones requiring employment history, income so many times rent etc. You may impose others to counter identity fraud, and insure stability such as:

  • I worked at a credit department at a major department store that offered instant credit to people off the street. They fill out an application, and to make sure they are who they are, and work where they say they work, during weekdays, working hours, I called “directory assistance” for the phone number of the company, to make sure its a real company, and call the number looking for the customer who’s sitting right next to me. When they look perplexed, I explain that if YOU ARE AT WORK, and you can’t be at two places at once, I have a problem. Often I get “Mr. so and so is out sick today”, and I tell the customer this with a wink.

  • I ask for the drivers license AFTER applications are filled out, and I found instances where names don’t match.

  • I would impose a rule of the tenant not having more than two residences in the last five years, since more than that, they might be unstable at best, or non paying tenants where landlords just lie to get rid of them at worst.

  • I don’t take section 8 people for the reason that I prefer people who work, who has a work ethic.

  • Assessing body language, and looking through a facade is something hard to teach. One other way is I always ask tenants to fill out applications on site, and with a two page application, so I can see them handling a real world task:

– I can see and hear how much and often they complain about things asked of them in the application, while they are filling out the application, I can determine from this what type of tenants they will be later on. One applicant complained loudly that asking for her age is stupid, asking for the checking account number is stupid, and later on, I found anything I ask of her to do is stupid.

– How complete the application is, and I can determine how they follow the rules later on. For instance, tenants often don’t come with bank account#'s, but some ask if they can come home and brng it back to me. For me, the critical part is not what the account number is, but how they handle it. Tenants who just fill out the name, current address, and hand it back to me leaving everything else blank will turn out to be the worst tenants, since they will not follow any rules later on, forget it’s the first of the month etc.

Without your being there, you can put rules into effect as to what tenants are acceptable. My looking at body language often reinforces other factors.

I understand “mrLandlord.com” has an eight page rental application, and I thought of getting it, just to see how people react to it, and really weed people out. It seems I’m able to do it with a two page version.

Frank that is good information. How they fill out the application and matching their ID number. When I got married my visa had one name and everyone aske for my license. We use to laugh because no one ever caught the fact that my license had a different name than my visa. All the tips you gave were very, very good. I like the idea of having them fill it out on the spot ad see how they react to a little work - you are sooo right about then seeing a bit of how they handle things. Thanks all valuable information!

This sounds like a good idea, but does it really give you a valid legal reason to reject the applicant?

Sorry for bumping an old thread, but what a motherlode of good information! Frank you should write a book on this stuff (if you haven’t already).