There are three basic categories of tenants: great tenants, decent tenants, and nightmare tenants. Unfortunately, nightmare tenants can slip through the cracks undetected, but there are things you can do to increase your chances of filtering them out during the tenant screening process.
If you own rental property, here’s what you need to know about avoiding nightmare tenants in Austin.
Nightmare tenants always have excuses
From time to time, you’ll encounter many tenants who need a little extra time to pay the rent, or they need to be reminded about the lease agreement. These situations are normal and even expected. There’s nothing wrong with providing a little leniency to an otherwise good tenant who just needs a few more days to get their paycheck and pay the rent. You can charge a late fee if you want or give them a grace period, but either way, these situations will only be occasional.
The nightmare tenant, on the other hand, will always have excuses for late rent and lease violations. These tenants will be perpetually late with the rent and won’t take responsibility, nor will they pay late fees. They’ll tell you all kinds of sob stories that may not even be true. It’s hard to tell on the surface if they’re just trying to get out of paying rent or if they don’t actually have the rent money. However, they will make your life difficult.
Another characteristic of nightmare tenants is that they will argue with you over everything. They’ll also complain about things that are sometimes out of your control. They’ll even start fights with neighbors and bring chaos to the neighborhood.
If you notice a pattern of perpetual excuses, you’ve probably got a bad tenant who will turn into a nightmare if you don’t start applying the consequences outlined in your lease agreement. It’s important to evict early and fast when faced with a bad tenant because it can take months to get them out.
Know how to spot a professional tenant early on
The most damaging type of nightmare tenant is a professional tenant. Most renters just want to find a comfortable, safe place they can call home that also comes with reasonable rent. These people don’t usually cause major issues and just want to live their lives and be left alone. However, there are people out there who intentionally rent from landlords in order to game the system and live for free. These renters are referred to as “professional tenants” and they aren’t always easy to spot. In fact, some of them drive nice cars, dress professionally, and seem like the ideal tenant until the first red flag appears.
Often, the first red flag you’ll see from a professional tenant is some kind of excuse for not having the rent paid on time. Maybe their sister died or they had to take care of their aging parents, or something like that. They’ll promise you the rent in a week and it will never come. After a few back-and-forth conversations about it, they’ll eventually just stop communicating. They won’t answer the phone, return calls or texts, and they will basically force you to begin a formal eviction process.
The biggest trick up a professional tenant’s sleeve is knowing landlord-tenant laws inside and out, which gives them an advantage for manipulating landlords. They will avoid paying rent by citing minor or even non-existent repair needs, and sometimes they’ll get a landlord to accept a partial rent payment, which makes it easier for them to stay in the unit longer. If eviction paperwork isn’t served properly, they’ll get the lawsuit thrown out and force the landlord to start all over, prolonging their rent-free stay.
In some cases, professional tenants make frivolous accommodation requests they know the landlord won’t approve, and then report them to the authorities for violating Fair Housing laws and disability-related laws. They might even claim the rental unit is uninhabitable. By the time it’s all over, a professional tenant will have gotten away with between 2-3 months of not paying rent (if not longer).
This potential is why it’s crucial to evict someone at the first sign of major trouble so there’s less chance of dealing with a professional tenant. People looking to manipulate you will prey on your empathy and take advantage of your kindness. Since it’s hard to know what someone’s true intentions are, it’s better to protect your investment and cut them loose as fast as possible.
Tips for spotting nightmare professional tenants
During your tenant screening process, look for the following signs:
- Any indication the person is overly familiar with landlord-tenant laws. If someone hasn’t been a landlord, there’s usually no reason for them to know the laws intimately. It could be a sign that they’re a professional tenant or someone who likes to see how far they can get by breaking the rules.
- References that aren’t easy to verify with past landlords. Former landlord references should answer the phone or return your call. If they are dodgy, it could be a bad sign.
- A resistance to your income verification process. Often, people with sketchy or unreliable income don’t want to go through a verification process.
- Holes in their rental history. If someone can’t explain where they lived for random periods of time, it could be a sign that they were evicted or unable to pay rent and had to move.
- Evictions on record. Recent evictions are never a good sign. If it’s been ten plus years, you might want to make an exception, but it’s your call.
- Court records that show lawsuits with past landlords. Sometimes people get swindled by landlords, and that doesn’t mean they will sue you. However, lawsuits with past landlords can be a bad sign.
- Fake landlord references. This one might be tough to verify, but it’s possible. If an applicant gives you a phone number, name, and address of a former landlord, search for the property through the online assessor’s office and verify ownership. See if you can connect the name of the reference to the address or phone number provided. If someone else is connected to the contact information, beware, because it could be a friend posing as a former landlord.
Avoid bad tenants with Green Residential
It’s hard to spot bad tenants during the screening process, and that’s why Austin property investors hire Green Residential to manage their properties from top to bottom. From the tenant screening process to rent collection and legal notices, we do it all.
As the premiere Austin property management company, we can provide a rigorous tenant screening process to protect you from bad tenants. Contact us today for a free property analysis and find out more about our professional property management services.