Any property manager can tell you how important tenant screening is to successful property management.  A bad tenant can not only be unpleasant to deal with but can cause thousands of dollars in losses that can take you years to recoup.  See our 10 warning signs when screening a tenant to help with your selection process.


  1. Bad Credit- While this may be an obvious answer, most tenants will have credit issues or wouldn’t be renting to begin with. Be especially aware of collections from property management companies and utility companies.
  2. Previous Evictions-an eviction on file should be grounds for immediate denial of an application.
  3. Unverifiable Rental References- Rental references from other property management companies and apartment complexes are great indicators of future tenant behavior. Be wary of references from private individuals because a tenant can put anyone down as a reference and it is hard to verify that they are the true owners of the home in question.
  4. Smokers-If you have a non-smoking home and you smell smoke on the individual, be aware that there will be no way to control whether they will be smoking in the home. Prohibiting smoking in the lease is a good start but not enforceable on a daily basis.
  5. Tenants With Animals- Be careful with tenants who have large or aggressive breed dogs.  Most insurance companies exclude breeds such as pitt bulls and rottweilers, so make sure you check your policy before accepting any dog.
  6. Immediate Move-In- Be wary of tenants looking for immediate move-in. Immediate move-in requests could mean that they are being evicted from another property.
  7. Criminal History- You should carefully consider tenants who have recent criminal history other than traffic violations. Tenants with recent violence or theft history should be turned down.
  8. Breaking Current Lease-Tenants who are breaking their current lease to move is a good indicator that they would have no problem breaking your lease as well.
  9. Needy or Demanding- If your interactions with your potential tenant leave you with a bad taste before you accept them, imagine them for the next year. Keep in mind tenants are usually on their best behavior during the application process.  Refusal to follow your rules in the application process would likely mean that they would not follow your lease agreement.  While this would not be automatic grounds for denial it would be advisable to treat them with a firm stance from day 1.
  10. Negotiating Payment of Deposits– Do not accept tenants who do not have all of the funds to move in. Collecting deposits after they have possession of your property can be challenging and lead to a quick eviction.  If they do not have the funds upfront, they should not be renting your home to begin with.

You can minimize your risk by using these tips when screening a tenant or hire a qualified property manager to do it for you.  Experienced Property Managers have an innate sense when picking tenants after fine-tuning their process over years of screening.  Happy hunting!