Choosing a tenant to live in your property can be an exciting but nerve-wracking experience.
Whether your property is located in Towson, Rosedale, Lutherville, or somewhere else in Baltimore County, choosing the wrong tenant means you could end up with costly damage, a more stressful job, late rent payments, or worse!
So, instead of jumping to conclusions or falling victim to a charming tenant’s charisma, take your time during the screening process and look out for these red flags:
1. Different people showing up to view your property than what you expected
Sometimes this can be a warning sign that more people are planning to live in the property than you think. This especially applies if the prospective tenant seems nervous or answers in a vague way when you ask them who will be living there.
You might also want to be cautious if a young tenant brings his or her parent along. This could indicate that the prospective tenant is not mature enough to take care of your property and handle paying rent on time. This especially applies if it is their first time renting.
2. Negative comments about previous landlords
If your tenant makes several negative comments about their previous landlords, they may end up being unhappy with you eventually too. Some tenants are impossible to please, and there’s nothing you can do about it – keep that in mind during your screening process.
And yes – some landlord complaints are completely justifiable, but many are unnecessary. Listen to your prospective tenant and use your best judgment to avoid ending up with a bad tenant who is never happy with your efforts.
3. Complaints about the property
When a prospective tenant complains about the property before they even start renting, you can bet they they’re likely to complain when they do move in. While some complaints are to be expected, you don’t want to choose a tenant who is always bothered by something – these types on tenants can even end up refusing to pay rent in the future due to a minor issue.
4. A bad credit score and/or worryingly low income
There’s no doubt about it – a bad credit score should be a deal-breaker when it comes to choosing a tenant.
If they have proven that they cannot pay bills in a timely manner, it’s highly likely that they won’t pay their rent on time either.
As far as the tenant’s income, you should make sure that they are making significantly more than enough to cover the rent. Some landlords require tenants to make 3x their rent, and others require more than that.
Consider your specific situation and calculate a reasonable income amount to require of your tenants so you can get paid on time every month.
5. A prior eviction
While it’s true that evictions can be filed for many different reasons, you should keep in mind that the most common reason is the tenant failing to pay rent. Trust me – you don’t want to deal with the hassle of evicting a tenant in Baltimore County. So, be sure to choose tenants with a good track record when it comes to renting.
6. A bad first impression
Look for these warning signs the first time you meet your prospective tenant:
- Showing up under the influence of drugs and/or alcohol – This is a sign that they may end up bringing drugs into your property and/or throwing large parties.
- Having an unkempt appearance and/or vehicle – If your prospective tenants are neglectful of their personal cleanliness or the cleanliness of their vehicle, they’re unlikely to care about keeping your property clean.
- Being unnecessarily rude – If a prospective tenant has a bad attitude the first time you meet them, it will likely only get worse from there.
Remember, you don’t want just anyone in your Baltimore County property. Only choose high-quality tenants who are unlikely to disrespect your time and your property.
7. Frequent job changes
When searching for the right tenant, keep in mind that a person who changes jobs frequently may end up between jobs while living at your property.
When this happens, they probably won’t be able to pay rent on time (or at all!).
To avoid this problem, try to stick with tenants who have a solid career and have worked for one company consistently. That way, you’ll know that they have a reliable source of income and the ability to pay rent on time every month.
8. A history of moving frequently
As a landlord, you probably already know that high tenant turnover can be costly – it’s definitely something you want to avoid whenever possible. So, if you notice that your prospective tenant has moved fairly often in the past, you may want to proceed with caution.
Try to choose tenants who have a record of staying in the same property for a long time, and it’s more likely that you’ll avoid the hassle of needing to replace them sooner than you’d like.
Have you ever dealt with a tenant who lied on their application? How about a tenant who lied to your face?
If so, you probably already know that these situations can set the tone for a hostile tenant/landlord relationship. It’s hard to trust a tenant again when they are dishonest early on.
But what if you aren’t quite sure whether or not the tenant is lying?
Well, the good news is that it doesn’t always take much investigating to find out whether or not a tenant is being dishonest with you. For example, if you are renting a non-smoking property and can’t tell whether or not the tenant smokes, be wary if he or she shows up to view the property smelling like cigarette smoke. Similarly, if you do not allow pets in your property, take notice of tenants who have pet fur on their clothes when they meet up with you.
Don’t hesitate to ask your prospective tenants questions if you have any concerns, and be sure that all applications are filled out completely.
Although all of these red flags can be concerning, keep in mind that a solid screening process including a credit check, a criminal background check, and a work history check will help you weed out tenants who are likely to cause problems down the road.
Don’t forget that you must adhere to the federal Fair Housing Act when screening your tenants. That means that you can’t discriminate against them due to:
- National origin
You also can’t discriminate against families with children or people with disabilities. Be sure to research the Fair Housing Act and the state laws in Maryland to make sure you do not break the law when choosing a tenant.
If you’re not sure about the best way to screen tenants, or if you are tired of dealing with stressful tenant evictions, our Baltimore County property management team can help. We have such a thorough screening process that less than 1% of the tenants we place end up getting evicted.
We even offer a 12-month tenant warranty – if the tenant we place in your property is evicted within the first year, we release the property for you for free!
If you’re interested in learning more or have questions about professional property management, contact us today!