It’s all smiles and anticipation at first. The new tenant looking to start off in a new rental home, and the landlord looking forward to a good tenant that pays rent on time and takes care of the apartment. Then the nightmare begins – late rent, property damage, legal issues, and accusations. That’s the deadbeat tenant.
Some bad tenants are really, really good at it. They know the legal ropes and use them to their full advantage in order to stay in your rental as long as possible without having to pay rent. But there are precautions that you can take before, during and after their stay. Here is some advice for landlords on how to handle the situation.
- Don’t rush the application process. Make sure the tenant has completely filled out everything, and that it is accurate. Ask to see their driver’s license and compare the birth dates and identification with what is on the application. The tenant could be using an alias to hide convictions or past rental history.
- Be sure to run credit and background checks. Include criminal history, previous rental history, credit history, previous and current debts, sex offender, and more. If their debt is too high, they may not be able to afford your rent. Know how to read everything on the report and what the minimum credit rating should be for your tenant.
- Call their family and employment references. You might consider asking if a family member would be willing to guarantee their lease to find out how much they really support the applicant. Be sure to ask a lot of questions.
- Realize that you are not their close friend, you are their landlord. While it is always a good idea to be on a good basis with your tenant, you don’t want to be the one they count on to help them in a financial jam – that is where friends and family come in. They need to realize that as a landlord, you will have to evict them for non-payment of rent, although you will hear plenty of sob stories, both true and made up.
- Their social media profile may be entirely different from their persona that you see. Check Facebook and Twitter to be sure that they are not using fake names or have a history of drugs or violence.
After they move in, you need to be sure that you protect yourself in case the worst happens. That includes keeping multiple copies of their lease in a safe place, and documenting every call and issue that happens during their stay. If the rent is late, be sure to promptly send them notice and document any call, email, or note posted at the residence.
Once the legal deadline has passed and you have provided proper notices, you will need to go to your county courthouse, file the eviction notice and pay the fees to have legal notice service by the sheriff or process server. This can be expensive, but it is better than sitting for months without any income. Do not accept partial rent payments from the tenant, because that could start the entire process over again.
The tenant may claim that you did not follow the lease or provide needed repairs, so you really need to make sure that you document everything done throughout the entire stay, especially the move-in and move-out documentation. While you need to be firm in dealing with the tenant, you must also realize that communication should be open and you will need to decide if you will make any concessions at all.
Hopefully you can have a good (professional) relationship with your tenant and everything will work out well. However, planning for the deadbeat tenant may save you a lot of headaches down the road.