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Rent It Network

8 Red Flags You Don’t Want to Miss While Screening Tenants

Tampa property management company flying big red flag outside

As one of the top property managers in Tampa, we at Rent It Network have seen our fair share of tenants both good and bad. A good tenant relationship is one of the most important aspects of running a rental property.

Once you’ve locked a tenant into a lease, they’ll most likely be there for the remainder of it barring any unforeseen circumstances. Even if they aren’t a good tenant, it’s pretty difficult to evict someone without proper grounds for doing so. In order to avoid the stress of dealing with a no-good tenant, watch out for these red flags not to miss during tenant screening.

Previous Eviction

A previous eviction is one of the most obvious red flags; for some reason or another, the tenant was asked to terminate their lease and leave the property. In most cases, an eviction is truly the tenant’s fault. Either they couldn’t pay rent, they acted in a disorderly or disrespectful manner, they committed a crime, or they did something else bad enough to warrant an eviction.

That being said, do your due diligence to make sure you’re being fair and not just making assumptions. Maybe it was a unique situation where they lost their job, had to deal with a family or medical emergency, or the previous landlord was discriminating against them. It can be hard to tell what exactly went down but go with your gut and be wary of anyone who has been evicted. If someone has been evicted multiple times, that’s a major red flag and it’s best to avoid going further with them as a possibility.

Unstable Income

While it’s easy to have sympathy for someone who is down on their luck with employment and trying to make ends meet, you have to treat your Tampa property like a business. Just because someone can pay the initial fees and first month’s rent doesn’t guarantee they’ll be able to pay for the entire lease term.

They need proof of employment and income that is more than enough to only cover rent; a typical agreement is that the tenant’s monthly income must be three times as much as the monthly rent. Other payments come up; flat tire, hospital bill, etc. and you need to know that they’ll still be able to pay rent on time. After all, if they don’t pay that just means that you’re also likely to end up in debt.  If you’re not sure what counts as unstable income, hire a property manager in Tampa to help you source tenants and look for red flags.

No Income

Even worse than unstable income (odd jobs, temporary work), is no income at all. Most of the tenants who apply should be able to show proof of employment and tell you how much they make. If they claim to not work but have plenty of money saved up, ask them to get a proof of funds statement from their bank.

Criminal Record

A criminal record of any kind is a huge red flag. Sure, people make mistakes and you might want to help someone get back on their feet, but most applicants won’t have a criminal record and you don’t necessarily have to settle for someone who does.

That being said, you are not supposed to discriminate against anyone who has a criminal record but rather must look at it on a case-by-case basis. It boils down to determining the safety of the other residents; if the crime was bad enough, you can deny residency. If it was something that you determine as not harmful to others, you can approve the application. Still, know that this is not a good sign and try to handle the situation with as many people in mind as possible.

They Want to Move in Too Quickly

A less obvious red flag is a tenant who wants to move in ASAP. While this might seem like a blessing to fill your empty space, good things take time and you’ll have someone in due time. Most tenants, depending on their situation, give a 60 -notice then begin the search for their new rental. Of course, this isn’t the case for everyone, especially if they aren’t coming from another rental property in Tampa.

Still, it’s common for people to come in with the expectation that the rental won’t be ready until a period of time after the current resident moves out or after their initial tour. You have to approve the application, clean the space, and tie up any other loose ends. If they want to move in as soon as you meet them, or if they apply online and want to move in without seeing the property, try to gauge why they’re so desperate.

Maybe their new job starts and the rental they had lined up fell through, or they broke up with their partner and need a new place immediately. Those are both understandable situations. But if they don’t explain, consider that they might be on bad terms with their current landlord, they may be getting denied everywhere else, or they might be trying to lock you into a contract before you realize what’s wrong. It’s okay to give them the benefit of the doubt but try to fully understand why they want to move in quickly and stick to the timeline that works best for you.

An alarm clock on a pile of rental income

They Ask to Pay Late

Similar to someone with an unsteady income, watch out for the prospective tenant who wants to pay late. Of course, they may have a great reason like they just got a new job that doesn’t pay until Friday or something personal came up like sudden funeral expenses.

Again, it’s okay to gauge the situation and make an empathetic call. You need to remember that everyone isn’t honest, though, and that sometimes even people with the best intentions aren’t responsible with money. It’s important that you receive the payments you need to make your investment profitable.

Bad Credit

Like many of these red flags, bad credit doesn’t automatically mean a tenant is totally unsuitable. It’s still important to look into, though, especially if it comes in conjunction with any other issues. Take the time to ask them about the bad credit score and see if they can provide proof that they have always paid their rent on time in the past.

It’s possible that they can have a co-signer with good credit, whether that’s a parent or a partner or someone else, and you can also ask for more money upfront to provide a security blanket. Be cautious and remember that while bad credit isn’t the end of the world, it’s also not a great sign.

Incomplete Application

A final red flag to watch out for is an incomplete application. You’re likely eager to get your Tampa property filled, especially if the tenant seems to meet all of the requirements but watch out for an incomplete application.

They could have forgotten a section, or they might be avoiding sharing information that makes them look bad. They also be lazy which points to unreliability; as a property owner, you need someone who follows the rules.

One red flag may not be bad, but you need to at least look into the situation further to make sure. If a potential tenant shows more than one of these red flags, they likely don’t meet all of the requirements of a good resident. Treat people fairly but proceed with caution; after all, there’s a reason why you screen tenants and why lease agreements are so firm.

If you need a property manager in Tampa to help you source and screen tenants, contact us to get started today.

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