Perfect 10 -- Or Problem Tenant? Part I: The Basics

It’s not always easy to tell which tenants are going to be a hassle.

We’ve all had problem tenants before — people who use the walls for throwing-knife practice, people who rev up their un-muffled motorbikes at 3am, and so on. All you can do is politely ask them to leave and give them enough time to move out…right?

If only it were that easy! Getting tenants out without causing more hassle than it’s worth is tricky. An ounce of prevention is worth more than a pound of cure. Your best bet is to screen potential tenants thoroughly. Here are some basic questions to ask:

How complete is the application? If the application is missing critical information, e.g. they won’t give you their social security number, or they give you a fake current address, it’s an immediate deal-breaker. Automatically reject anyone who lies on their application!

What is their background? If they’re a felon or on a watch-list, proceed with caution. There are exceptions to every rule — especially if it’s been a decade or more since their conviction — but it’s generally better to err on the side of ‘no’.

Have they ever been evicted from a rental or broken a lease? If this happened in the recent past, get their story (with supporting documentation), and then get the previous landlord’s side. If the incident concerns you, sleep on it before you decide to approve them.

What type of references do previous landlords give? A red flag from a previous landlord might be explained away, but not likely. Also, be careful as some bad tenants have a friend pose as their previous landlord. Ask the reference to confirm the applicant’s info. Don’t give the info and ask them to confirm.

If someone’s background doesn’t quite check out, feel free to ask them for a letter explaining why not. There are many things that won’t show up on paper unless you ask for the story.