Great tenants pay on time, keep the property well-maintained, and don’t bother the neighbours. Bad tenants will give you endless reasons for delayed payments, let the property deteriorate and are an annoyance to the neighbours. Finding a good tenant is a blessing, while being hooked with the latter means endless headaches and potential loss of income. A lot of people are so focused on securing a tenant quickly, not wanting their property vacant, that they miss small signs that indicate troublesome tenants.
Here are some signs to help you identify bad tenants and steer clear of them:
- Constantly looking for issues with the property – If you have done all the necessary repairs and prepared your property to rent out in tiptop shape, yet during your open home/viewing, a potential tenant keeps pointing out several “issues” and still puts in an application – avoid them! This is a big red flag of someone who is hard to please and will constantly demand to have things throughout their tenancy. Please note that they will often be quite rude when pointing out these perceived issues that may not necessarily be actual issues, it will usually be just pointing out items for the sake of complaining.
- Constantly on the move – You can casually ask where they are moving from and how many years, they’ve been renting the last two or three homes they were in. Someone who’s been on the move and spent less than a year in each of their previous properties is not your best bet (Depending on some circumstances, they might have bought a dog, had a baby and needed to upsize or downsize). If they have been moving quite regularly and don’t have a reasonable explanation, then they aren’t going to rent yours for a long time either. You are going to be doing this same run around trying to find new tenants in 6 – 12 months. Chances are they have been evicted by their previous agent or landlord and may cause issues in their tenancy with you.
- Reluctance to provide references – When applying for a rental through an agency, tenants are asked to fill out an application form, a thorough check on a default tenancy database, proof of income, 100 points of I.D, personal references and rental references from previous agencies and landlords. If an applicant is reluctant with providing any documents, promises to give them later, but never do or provides falsified ones, cross him or her out of your list immediately. Often rental references are left blank, false mobile numbers of property managers (put the mobile in google and see if the property manager’s name appears that is on the list or at least the agency they’re from) because they have been evicted for rent arrears or damages. Also keep an eye out for 28+ year old applicants that don’t have a rental history, but their home address isn’t their parents, it’s highly unlikely they’ve never rented before.
- Books and their covers – They say not to judge a book by its cover, and that is true, but when it comes to prospective tenants you need to look at everything. Are they dressed presentable for the inspection? We don’t expect a 3-piece suit and a cocktail dress but walking through a potential rental with muddy shoes and dirty hands touching the walls is a good sign they’re a bad tenant. If they don’t respect the house when you’re there, what are they going to do when you’re not? It’s understandable that builders, mechanics and other physical labourers may have to duck over during the day for a midday inspection but see if they take their shoes off before entering or at least ask if they need to. If you’re greeting potential tenants at the front of the property, take a quick look at the condition of their car and see if it is maintained well. You can tell a lot about a person and their car.
- Not so friendly with previous landlords – Casually ask applicants to describe or talk about their previous landlords and property managers. Good tenants are more likely to share mostly positive stories that will reflect good relationships with their previous hosts or talk about issues that were resolved in a timely/untimely matter but still remain factual. Bad tenants, on the other hand, will describe an evil person/company and will always blame someone else for issues be it the property, landlord, property manager or tradespeople for their reason for “needing to move.” Tenants that always have something or someone else to blame are usually the root of the issue. Beware, you could be the next evil character in the story.
- Rent Arrears – It’s not hard is it? You sign the lease for ‘X’ amount of dollars per week, you move in and start paying each week/fortnight/month you get paid. Technology allows us to set up automatic debits from our banks, direct debits can be set up with real estates so the money is taken each due day … but for bad tenants, there’s always an excuse. In point 3 I mentioned rental references are collected from previous agents and landlords. When collecting a rental reference always ask if rent was paid on time and if the tenants were ever breached and what for. When you receive a rental reference, there is usually a rental ledger showing all of the tenant’s payments are attached to this. Read through the payments to see when rent was paid, when rent was due and what date the paid amount paid them to. If they are constantly behind, they are going to fall behind with you too and cause financial headaches.
Did you know that bad tenants love self-managing landlords? When you place your property for rent on Gumtree or Facebook marketplace you will often get a lot of enquiries from tenants that don’t like renting through agencies. This is because going through an agency they know there are going to be thorough background checks, previous rental references, employment confirmation/affordability and tenant default database checks. They know that some DIY landlords are not going to be as experienced as some property managers with their in-depth checks and get away with damaging the property and not paying rent (not all but quite a lot). It’s not difficult to be a good tenant, but it is sometimes difficult to spot a bad one.