Receiving a tenant application can require some detective work and a good ear. A prospective tenant calls you and wants to see that 3 bedroom apartment that you have for rent. What types of “red flags” should you be watching and listening for as you talk to the tenant, show them the unit, and process their application?
- When prospective tenants are late to the showing appointment and don’t have a valid reason, I am immediately skeptical.
- If you are unable to verify their employment, income, or rental history, be concerned. I had a very interesting discussion with a prospective tenant when I told him I was going to call his current landlord. It went something like this:
- Me: “I see on your application you didn’t list your landlord’s phone number or last name”
- Him: “I don’t have the phone number for my landlord”
- Me: “How do you call him if something needs to be fixed”
- Him: “He never fixes it anyway”
- Me: “What is his last name”
- Him: “I am not sure”
- Me: “Where do you send the rent?”
- Him: “He stops by around the 5th of the month and I pay him”
- Me: “Do you know where he lives”
- Him: “No”
- …At this point, I was convinced he was lying to me, did not want me to call his landlord, or simply irresponsible. All traits I don’t need in a tenant.
- I will often call the prospective tenant once or twice on the phone to see how much noise is going on the in background. I am amazed how often I can’t even hear the prospect on the other end of the phone because of the yelling and TV blaring! They are most likely going to bring this chaos to your apartment and disturb the neighbors.
- How a tenant carries themselves, dresses, and what kind of car they drive also gives me some clues as to their personality. Now I have been surprised by a jean wearing professional that drove a BMW, rented a new townhouse I have, and lived like a pack of dogs, but I am often right!
- Because I charge $25 as an application fee, I will occasionally get a response “I won’t have the $25 until next Friday [6 days from now].” I do rent in some lower-income neighborhoods, but if you were planning to rent an apartment and 90% of landlords in Minneapolis require an application fee, shouldn’t you have that money saved up?
- I am often receive many calls on my apartment ads during the last 5 days of the month. I have to guess that they simply woke up on the 25th of the month and realized they need to be out of their current apartment on the 30th and then decided they should go and find a new place to live. As enticing as it is to take one of these tenants instead of having an open apartment, you need to screen them extra carefully.
- Occasionally, when I am concerned about how a tenant may treat my apartment, I will actually require an on-site inspection of their current apartment. How clean it is (especially the kitchen), tells me a lot. If I see lots of grease on the stove and bathroom is nasty, I pass on them.
- When processing the tenant application, if they “forgot” to tell me anything about anything derogatory on their application, I am concerned about what else they are hiding.
- Constant moving of apartments or job is also concerning as it shows instability or problems.
Some of these tenant application red flags can be identified on the phone prior to booking the appointment. Save your appointments for the people who have passed your initial screen. With some observations of your prospective tenant and some simple “gut checks”, you can often weed out potential problem tenants before they ever cross your threshold.
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