Articles of Interest

From 1 to 20: Landlord's Occupancy Nightmare

A landlord in Cleveland was trying to give a single mom a break. Instead, the new tenant invited in 19 other people, trashed the property, and then left the water running when she vacated.


The case highlights not only how important it is to make tenant screening choices based on cold, hard facts and not on personal impressions, but also how fast a tenancy can spin out of control, creating serious income loss.


The best way to avoid this kind of disaster is to hone your tenant screening skills. Too often, the “sad” cases were a story in the making. The tenant may have started out as someone who is responsible, but somewhere down the line he or she went astray. The trick is to avoid being the next chapter in a problem tenant’s history.


Bad tenants often will target private landlords with little experience. Tenants perceive these landlords as being more vulnerable, in part because of the their tendency to tolerate a tenant’s sob stories, and in part because these landlords are more likely to cut corners when it comes to screening applicants.


That doesn’t have to be you.


When filling a vacancy, take the time to check the tenant’s rental history before you make any decisions. If the applicant cannot provide a landlord reference, dig a little deeper. A spotty history may not be entirely the applicant’s fault, but if you don’t get to the bottom of it, you will kick yourself later when you are trying to patch up your property.


You can’t overestimate the importance of a tenant credit report in flagging tenants who have victimized landlords in the past. Granted, some tenants fall through the cracks, especially if the previous landlord chose not to pursue what was owed to them. Still, a lack of financial responsibility typically bleeds into other facets of the tenant’s life, and a credit check can tip you off that you may be going down the wrong path.


As important as it is to screen tenants, actively engage in property management throughout the tenancy. Remember the ‘rule of three’ — educators say that’s how many times we have to hear something before it sinks in. For instance, the more times the tenant reviews the guest policy, the more likely they will hesitate before inviting others into their rental home.



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