Tight Market, Terrible Tenants?

With vacancy rates around the country dropping, and market rents on the rise, landlords should be rejoicing. But some are experiencing an unfortunate consequence of a tight rental market: more bad tenants.

It only stands to reason that as the market tightens, rental housing becomes more competitive. Over the course of the recent recession, some landlords were forced to compromise their standards on credit, income and other factors just to find a renter with steady employment.

Now, those same so-so tenants are having a difficult time finding a place to live, and some of the more unscrupulous ones are getting even more creative.

Common problems to watch for include applicants:

Using false information on the rental application;

Exaggerating or faking income;

Faking landlord and employment references;

Hiding behind someone else’s rental application, then moving in as a guest or roommate;

Writing bad checks in order to get the keys, and then delaying the eviction — usually by complaining about the condition of the property.

A landlord’s best defense is caution:

Don’t rush to rent to anyone before going through the standard leasing procedures — bad tenants  get the upper hand by agreeing to rent on the spot.  They usually have really good stories to tell. The trouble is, they’re not true.

Demand a completed rental application from every adult rental applicant, and check the accuracy of the information. Compare the application to your tenant screening reports to catch inconsistencies.

Watch the rental property carefully once the lease is signed, and look for signs of trouble, like unauthorized residents.

If you accept rent checks, note any changes from month to month in banking or contact information. That increases the odds of finding the tenant if they skip out. (Electronic payment methods provide a better defense against default.)

American Apartment Owners Association offers discounts on products and services for all your property management needs. Find out more at www.joinaaoa.org.