Obviously you should always use your own judgement when meeting with prospective tenants, and not all of these signs are necessarily red flags in certain contexts, so take the following with a pinch of salt…
1) They immediately attempt to negotiate the rent before anything else has been discussed. If they aren’t sure whether or not they can afford the proposed rent amount, then they have no business in viewing the property. It’s completely normal for a prospective tenant to attempt to negotiate the rent down a little, but usually their argument will have some kind of basis depending on the condition of the property having had viewed it in person. It’s suspicious, however, if they try to talk the price down before they’ve even seen anything or asked any questions.
2) Similarly, if they say something along the lines of: “I’ll try to get the money together.” If they can’t afford it now, then what’s it going to be like next month? And the month after that? Only accept tenants that you are confident can afford to pay the rent each month.
3) They seem as if they have something to hide. Follow up on any gut feelings. If you feel as if the person is not being transparent, you can ask them directly whether there is something that they think you should know. They might even be glad they asked, if it was something that they were concerned about but turns out to be not as big a deal as they thought.
4) They make any inappropriate remarks, especially about other tenants in the building or the neighbours. You can tell a lot about someone by the sort of offhand comments they make. This can be made even more apparent if the viewing is taking place in a property that is still inhabited, and the person fails to respect the privacy of those who are currently still living there or commenting on the current tenants’ personal possessions. Maybe they’re not so good at concealing their bad temper, or their disrespect toward people or property. If they can’t be respectful during a property viewing, what will they be like once they move in and feel at home? Viewings shouldn’t be difficult. They shouldn’t make you feel uncomfortable, or as if everything is a fight.
5) If they say that they are “between jobs”. They might genuinely have only just been made redundant from a job (and just have the worst luck when it comes to timing) and are attending interviews in hopes of quickly finding new employment within the next couple of weeks. They might even be a new professional to the area, and are actively seeking work whilst living on their savings. This is, of course, absolutely fine. But if it has been a few months since they last worked, and they are still phrasing it as being “between jobs”, then this should ring alarm bells. If they have no income, then you don’t get paid.
6) They ask too many questions regarding the criminal background and credit check. You can usually tell if someone is asking you just out of curiosity and fascination, or because they have reason for concern. A particularly bold person may even ask you to bend the truth or manipulate some information to serve them…
7) They have multiple addresses listed within the past two years. There could be a completely valid reason. On the other hand, they could be living rent-free in each place until they are evicted, before moving onto the next property. You should always ask the prospective tenant firsthand, then perhaps follow-up with their previous landlords to corroborate their story.
8) They don’t actually seem particularly interested in the property during the viewing. Most people when viewing what could potentially be their next home will naturally walk around each room asking questions, and picturing themselves living in the space and where things could go. You can see this in their eyes and from their behaviour, scrutinising angles to see where the sofa could go, and asking relevant questions. If they don’t seem interested then it might be that they don’t want the property for living in, but something else instead… Be especially cautious if they seem more interested in the windows and door security than anything else.
9) If the person tries to persuade you with talk of them going above and beyond for you. “If you do this, I will take extra good care with the property.” – What are they planning on doing otherwise? They should be taking care of the property regardless. Anyone that has to put in extra effort to take care of the property (enough so that it is even worth mentioning as a negotiation tactic) is eventually going to get lazy and stop making that effort. Other common “bribes” may even include the notorious: “I can pay you one year up front.” or “I can pay you double the first month, if you…”. Why are they so desperate?
10) They’re inconsistent with the information they give you. This might be their profession, their reason for looking for a new place, financial history, or any other personal information. It might even be their ID! Huge alarm bells should be sounding! Verify anything and everything that you will be basing your final choice upon.
11) They are critical of everything. If the tenant finds one million and one things wrong with every room they walk into, then these little criticisms are probably going to carry on into their tenancy and they will never be happy no matter what you do. It’s extremely common for a tenant to have a couple of criticisms whilst expecting the property. Especially if the property has been empty for a while, things like spider webs or mould may be an issue. It’s understandable that they would want things like that to be taken care of before they move in. But you shouldn’t be willing to renovate the entire property catering to the whims of an entitled tenant. Nor should they be fighting you on every single thing you say, as if everything is up for debate.
12) They openly insult their past landlord to you. If they’re complaining about past landlords, the issue probably isn’t the landlords but the tenant. Even more reason to speak to their historical landlords to get the other side of the story.
Remember: A viewing is an interview. If the prospective tenant doesn’t behave with the level of respect you would expect at a job interview, then is this the sort of person that you will want to be doing business with? Can you trust this person to look after your investment, and be financially responsible each month?
Read our tips on How To Attract The Perfect Tenant!