Professional property managers in Santa Clara will tell you that the best way to handle evictions is to never put yourself in that situation in the first place. Eviction is the last resort and rarely a scenario where a landlord comes out ahead financially. This is why tenant vetting is so crucial, and there are at least 13 red flags that you should never ignore.
1. Previous Eviction or Other Lawsuit
Beware of any prospective tenant who has previously been evicted, has successfully disputed the process or been involved in any other civil lawsuit with a landlord. Even if a person disputed the process — which means that the court sided with them — it indicates a person who the landlord wanted out and was willing to go to court to fight it. Perhaps the person was just dealing with a bad landlord. Sure, they exist, but do you really want to take that chance knowing what you know?
2. Errors and Blanks on an Application
This is one reason formal rental applications are important: The average person will take a rental application quite seriously and treat it as they would a job application. If an application has errors or a lot of missing information or has simply been approached with some level of disrespect, that’s a big red flag.
3. Criminal Record
If you want to avoid troublesome tenants, then pay close attention to their criminal record, including open and dismissed cases. People make mistakes, and you certainly don’t want to avoid people who’ve learned from them, but these records can include many red flags. A person with even one domestic abuse infraction, for instance, indicates someone who may resort to violence when faced with a problem.
4. Bad or False Landlord References
A property management company in Santa Clara will always do its due diligence when it comes to landlord references. Sure, references are relatively easy to falsify effectively, but this is only one flag. Some people will outright lie without taking any additional steps to make the lie work. Others will be brutally honest, and you’ll learn about late payments, early lease terminations and so forth.
5. Security Deposit Losses
When you speak with previous landlords, inquire about how much the security deposit was, whether it paid in full up front and whether was it returned in full. A minor security deposit deduction isn’t a big deal. However, large security deposit deductions or a history of security deposit deductions indicates a tenant who may require you to go through the eviction processes or at least have to deal with property damage.
6. Low Income
Many private landlords don’t require income verification, and that’s a mistake. The bottom line is that if your tenant doesn’t make enough money, he or she will eventually be late on the payment. How much is enough? A general rule to avoid troublesome tenants is to seek an income that’s at least 3.5 times the rent.
7. Poor Credit Score
Credit history and score are one of the most effective tools at a landlord’s disposal for avoiding eventual eviction processes. Think of credit score as a responsibility score, and consider that in light of the numerous studies linking bad credit to poor financial decision-making. Not all, of course, but many people with bad credit either take too many risks or have an entitlement mentality.
8. Frequent Relocation
Most people resist change. No one likes to move often. If you have prospective tenants that do move often and it’s not because of work, then that may indicate a fundamental problem. Don’t just rely on the residence history provided by the prospective tenant either. Avoid a future eviction by reviewing the credit history and all of the addresses associated with that social security number.
9. Sporadic Work History
Job hopping and employment gaps are troublesome red flags because they indicate a greater potential for a lower income than the one you’re basing the acceptance on. A contractor may move around a lot because that’s the nature of his or her business, but people working retail, for instance, who work for new companies every six to 18 months can indicate troublesome tenants in the making.
10. Aggressive Dog Breeds
Property managers in Santa Clara often warn against aggressive dog breeds, and your insurance company may not even allow them. One reason for this is not the dog itself but the research linking breed choice to owner disposition. Again, not all, but people who own a Pit Bull or Rottweiler are more likely to have an aggressive personality and a disposition toward taking risks.
11. Partial Security Deposit
A property management company in Santa Clara likely won’t even consider it, but many private landlords accept partial or even full security deposit payment after move-in. There are two problems here. The first is the red flag that the person doesn’t manage their finances well. The second is the statistical truth that you’re not likely to get the rest of the payment. That puts you in a bad financial position, and depending on the circumstances, may not even be grounds for an eviction.
When you ask a tenant questions, pay attention to how he or she answers those questions. The average person telling the truth will be concise. The person who likes to tell elaborate stories may think that all this context makes their lies more believable. Some people are just loquacious, but this red flag combined with other red flags on this list can indicate problems down the road.
13. Resistance or Refusal to Provide an SSN
With modern fears concerning identity theft, some resistance to relinquishing an SSN is understandable, but you need this information to properly vet the tenant. Don’t move forward without it. If you’re a private landlord, you may consider using a third-party service so that the prospective tenant feels that there’s some level of protection for them.