Early Signs Of Potentially Awful Tenants

Early signs...

Early signs…

Early signs…[/caption]I don’t know if old age has made me stupid crazy, or whether it’s just the toll of having dealt with one too many total dip-shit tenants, but I seem to get increasingly rigorous and perceptive with every viewing I take with prospective tenants. As I’ve said many times in the past, the thought of having to deal with another bullshit tenant- for example, one that doesn’t understand the importance of hygiene and general cleanliness- makes me want to redecorate my bedroom with my brains. I do what I can do avoid them, mainly by putting each tenant through rigorous consumer testing, whether they realise it or not!

It was Albeit Einstein that defined “insanity” as doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. I think he was onto something. Point is, if you end up with a bullshit tenant, ask yourself, “what could I have done differently to prevent it?” Prevention is the best cure.

When I first started managing my properties I used to primarily focus on the references the tenants provided and not much else. All I really cared about was their income, and whether they could afford the rent. In retrospect, that was stupid and naive, because any old arsehole can earn a buck. These days, I just as equally focus on sociological aspects, like the tenants mannerisms and gestures. All these qualities together help build a clearer and more broader reference package.

I’m sure most landlords that have been through their fair share of viewings have been put off by prospective tenants by incidents that have occurred during viewings- some incidents more obscure than others. And from each of those incidents, I’m sure a checklist has been developed which is to be cross-checked during all future viewings.

I’ve taken quite a few viewings for several different properties over the years, and from each block viewings, there’s usually at least one prospective tenant that does something stupid and/or repelling, which goes beyond the conventional tell-tale signs of a bad tenant. When that happens, I usually make a mental note. Effectively, my database of stuff-to-check during a viewing is forever growing.

The following is just a list of things I look out for during viewings based on my experiences. You may not even be phased by them. To each their own.

Footwear

I recently read an article by a douchebag that asked the question whether guests should remove their shoes before entering someone else’s home. If you need to ask that question, you’re an idiot.

The author implied that guests taking their shoes off was just a fad, and signed off with a smug comment referencing the invention of a doormat. Fuck you and your doormat. Doormats provide a light spring-clean, they’re by no means a silver bullet solution for filthy footwear. I don’t want the flaky dog shit attached under your plastic Crocs to get smeared across my carpets. I’m house proud. Take your stupid shoes off.

Having said that, I do think it’s relative. If you’re walking into a property that’s an obvious dump and smells of hepatitis, then keep the shoes firmly on your feet. But in all other cases, it’s natural instinct for me to immediately remove my footwear after entering someone’s home. Anyone that doesn’t do that, or at least offer to remove their footwear, is a rude idiot.

I don’t actively “enforce” the rule in my home, but it says a lot about a person that doesn’t do it out of courtesy. If a tenant doesn’t remove their footwear during a viewing, or at least offer to, they’ve been marked. My thought is, they’ll probably trample through the property willy-nilly during their tenancy.

Late arrivals

This happens way too often.

I’m automatically left with a bad taste in my mouth when tenants turn up significantly late to viewings. In many cases, they don’t even bat an eyelid or make any form of suggestion to imply they’re late and/or apologetic! It’s incredible! I’m pretty anal about punctuality, and I find it rude and unprofessional when people turn up late for interviews (I tend to compare viewings with interviews).

At the very least, inform me if you’re running late, it’s not difficult to do. Failing that, the prospects may as well not turn up, because I’ve already made up my mind, unless they can provide me with a genuine excuse that’s believable.

I swear it doesn’t even enter the tenants head that most landlords don’t live in the property they’re about to view, so we actually go out of our way to take the viewing.

Hagglers

I never overprice my properties, I keep them inline with the going rate, so there’s rarely ever any room for negotiation on the rates. I even make that clear on my adverts.

I don’t mind if someone tries to get a reduced rate on the off chance, but when they relentlessly try to haggle, it’s embarrassing, and I’m usually thinking, “is this dickhead really saying this shit? Is this really happening?” I’m not selling fruit and veg on a market stall, and I’m not going to throw in a free basin with the deal if you pay in cash.

Last year I was taking viewings for a property with the asking price of 775pcm. One tenant had the audacity of offering £600. I thought she was joking at first, so I just laughed, hoping she would get real, quickly. If I want standup comedy I’ll watch my Chris Rock DVD and have laughing fits until I shit myself.

Unfortunately, it became clear she was serious when she started increasing her offer in multiples of £10. She then stopped haggling with the “money”, she started haggling with bullshit intangible amenities like “taking care of the property” and “being a good tenant” e.g. “I’ll give you £650pcm, and I promise I’ll take of the property really well”

So let me get this straight, if you pay the full asking price, you won’t take care of the property “really well”?

It was just really weird.

Reschedules

I don’t mind if a prospective tenant wants to reschedule their appointment (as long as they give me appropriate notice), because we all do it on occasion. But there’s a limit to how many times one person can reschedule the same appointment. If a tenant cancels and reschedules their appointment 2 or 3 times, that’s it, I’m done with them. We’re already off to a bad start.

It’s not a proven theory, but I always think that the people that constantly reschedule are the same people that wouldn’t hesitate to send the following text,

Rents going to be a bit late this month. It will be in your account shortly. Sorry

People that cancel and reschedule more than once are time-wasters and unreliable. That’s a dangerous cocktail of qualities for a tenant to have.

“I’ll see if I can get the money together”

My receptors blink like my modem when I’m streaming porn in HD, fast and furiously, when I hear that line. I’ve heard it a few times in the past. It’s scary.

I like the property, I’ll see if I can get the money together. I’ll let you know…

Nah, mate, don’t bother.

If it’s going to be a struggle getting the money together this month, it usually means paying rent may come at a stretch every month. Let’s save ourselves some bother and go our separate ways. Nice meeting you.

The sniff test

I don’t care what anyone says, I sniff the aroma of all my prospective tenants, and I do it with good reason. You should be doing that crazy shit too.

This goes back to poor hygiene. If people can’t take care of themselves, they certainly won’t take care of someone else’s property. That’s just basic algebra. If someone comes to a viewing smelling like a steaming turd, I don’t want them let loose, contaminating the property with their funk.

It’s not only about poor hygiene though. I prefer non-smokers tenants, because I find smoking extremely destructive. And from past experience, a lot of tenants unconvincingly lie about their smoking status during viewings, because it’s easy to sniff out a smoker.

Fingernails

This is a really obscure one. Forgive me.

I remember this one guy that turned up to a viewing in an oversized suit that was clearly intended for someone else- he looked uncomfortable as the scraggly polyester was swallowing him alive. It looked like his mum dressed him in a family heirloom that had been passed down from generations, and then kicked him out of the door for a job interview.

The guy was nice enough, but as I went to shake his hand, I noticed he had abnormally long fingernails that was filled with cow-shit. It was pretty disgusting. I don’t know whether he had just clocked off from a hard shift on the corn fields or whether he had just fingered a 2-dollar prostitute. In any case, he had time to put on a suit, but not remove the cow-shit from his nails. The contrast between a guy in suit with shit-stuffed nails didn’t add up.

I don’t make a habit of examining or judging peoples fingernails, but I felt like he put me in that position. I couldn’t consider him after that. The condition of someone’s fingernails is probably a good indicator of how well they take care of them self.

Out of curiosity, would that have turned you off?

Overly demanding

Overly demanding tenants send off sirens! They’re most likely going to be hard work.

I remember when an overenthusiastic prospect instantly fell in love with one of my properties during a viewing. However, as she was analyzing each room, she started becoming extremely demanding. Bearing in mind that this was just a viewing, there was no agreement at this point.

We stepped into the living room, she pointed at the spot lights in the ceilings and said, “i’m going to need those replaced. I want a pendant, so I can hang lamp shades. When can you call your electrician?” She then went into the bedroom and said, “Ahh that’s perfect, there’s space to install some fitted wardrobes. We should be able to come an agreement, perhaps split the costs”

Are you fucking kidding me? It’s a non-furnished property, and I’m not here to deck out the place to your spec, you asshole.

I knew this woman would be problematic. She was giving me a brain hemorrhage even before she was a tenant. I could just tell she would be one of those tenants that would contact me with every minuscule little problem. I mean, dumb shit like loose door handles and programming the thermostat, issues which she could attend to herself, but clearly wouldn’t. She would rather I popped round in my tight workman pants during my free time. Some tenants are just like that; she had all the characteristics of being one!

Slow response rate

I’ve had prospective tenants enthusiastically shake my hand in agreement to a tenancy, in which I was more than happy to commit to. And then when it comes to signing the contract a few days later, there is no sign of them. Complete silence, even when you try and track them down. The question is, how long do I wait for?

Leaving people waiting during a business transaction is rude and unprofessional! At the very least, keep someone informed of what’s happening, even if it’s bad news! I’m not going to care if the prospects found a more suitable property or simply changed their mind, as long as I’m made aware. I just hate waiting around unnecessarily.

There is a cut off point. I judge it by each case, so there is no set period, but if someone leaves me hanging for what I feel is “too long”, they’re dead to me (even if they come back, still keen to go ahead), because they’ll be the first to go AWOL when rent is overdue. Punks.

So tell me, have you got any obscure/quirky referencing tactics that helps you identify potentially problematic tenants? Have you had any odd experiences during viewings, which put you off prospective tenants? Share!

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25 Comments- join the conversation...

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Tinny 8th April, 2013 @ 15:06

Interesting post. As a tennant I cannot offer my tips but yours sound very good. I will say this though... I don't wear shoes indoors and having seen few properties where people asked me to take the shoes off without a good reason (i am in the process of buying too), such as the property being clean... i don't offer it unless I spot that there is a high level of cleanliness in place or there are pristine light coloured carpets in place. I also walked out of new build showroom upon seeing they are forcing people to take shoes off. I generally don't mind but I don't offer automatically either. For example one tennant insisted for us to take shoes off and this made it difficult to go into the garden. I like some flexibility.

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jess 9th April, 2013 @ 10:25

..love your article and its totally spot on and for me
dirty and smelly tenants is a big no no for me..if they cant keep themselves clean, so what makes you think they care shit about the place they stay in..simple logic.

Had a viewing once whereby i noticed that the potential tenant was not wearing socks with his shoes although he was in business attire. Call me shallow or whatever butI told the agent later that i was not interested in renting to him..

potential tenants that wont look you in the eye when talking to you is another red flag.

I also rely on my instincts a great deal when assessing tenants so for the most part, i have managed to minimize my experiences with tenants from hell!

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Emma 9th April, 2013 @ 13:57

Excellent post!!! The shoe thing is a big issue for me and just shows good manners. If I have to ask someone to remove their shows, I may as well ask them to leave!!!

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The Landlord Avatar
The Landlord 9th April, 2013 @ 16:34

@Tinny,
I agree, and as said in the blog post, the whole shoe thing is a subjective issue, and it's largely based on whether the property looks clean.

Another point to remember is that during BTL viewings, a lot of the times you're walking into a property that is someone else's home (the current tenant's), so I think it's important to respect them in their home, and not just the landlord.

@Jess
Ha, wearing a suit with no socks is odd!! I would have also picked up on that!

Gut instinct is definitely something everyone should pay attention to. I've had prospective tenants make me feel uneasy in the past, even though I couldn't necessarily put a finger on why, but nonetheless, I didn't ignore my gut!

@Emma
100%, it's all about manners and respect!

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Smithy 10th April, 2013 @ 03:25

I showed a newly refurbished btl to a young woman with a small child. While we were talking in the kitchen, she sat the child on the work top, which was ok. We had an old radio we used while we were working and the child started fiddling with it - I moved the radio away from his little fingers - she made no attempt to stop him. Then she stood him down and he ran out into the bathroom (off the kitchen) and flushed the toilet. Ok, so he did not do any harm, but she made no effort to keep him with her, or to say 'leave things alone'. All minor stuff I agree, but she just let him do as he wanted.

That house was on a fairly busy road, and I had visions of the child working out how to open the front door and running out into the traffic. Or working out how to draw on the walls, or other little fun things that undisciplined children do.

I have also had prospective tenants miss viewing appointments and then text asking to reschedule. I agreed the first time - and they did it again. Their excuse was that a family member had been taken into hospital. But honestly - how much effort does it take to send a text? And as you say, we don't live there and have to make a special journey to meet them. Do they think we have nothing better to do than wait around?

Or my favourite. We agreed to rent the place to another young woman. Rent was fine. Deposit fine. Her brother came and looked with her and they were both happy. I drew up the tenancy agreement and texted her 'please let me know when you can call to sign the tenancy agreement, and we can sort out the deposit'. Silence. I sent another text. I rang. No response. This girl and her brother had been enthusiastic. How long do I wait? I could be showing other possible tenants round? The girl was pregnant - perhaps she had been taken ill?? After several more failed attempts to contact her, she did text to say she had changed her mind. What took her so long? Some people's idea of 'normal behaviour' is quite different to mine.

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The Landlord Avatar
The Landlord 10th April, 2013 @ 08:21

@Smithy,

Great list! I agree with everything you said. Watching how parents deal with their children during a viewing is a great indication of how diligent they're going to be. Children are destructive by nature, and if they're not controlled/monitored, it usually means more repairs/patching at the end of, or even during, the tenancy.

Response time! Can't believe I missed that one out from the list (I'm going to add it in later). I've been repelled by tenants that took too long to respond in the past. Leaving people waiting during a business transaction is rude and unprofessional! At the very least, keep someone informed of what's happening, even if it's bad news! I hate waiting around unnecessarily!

Cheers

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Bingola 11th April, 2013 @ 16:52

I don't stop at sniffing them. I have a little tickle of their midriff to see how much timber they're packing. If they slap me upside the face and tell me how much of a dangerous weirdo I'm being, I let them know quite firmly that if they can't take care of their waistline, it's certain they won't be able to take care of my property.

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John THE LANDLORD 15th April, 2013 @ 14:12

Great post and one which I can relate to!

Nearly all of your list is on mine, the issue on not turning up on time, one of my all time favourites! I've had tenants who have turned up 30-45 mins after their arranged time and not battered an eye-lid as they come through the door smiling away, like my full time job is to sit around waiting in an empty house, with just my Iphone and dodgy internet signal for company! And I never ever understand why people can't simply pick up the phone to say they are not attending a viewing - some people just seem to find this impossible.

Another one I like to do is put their names in or mobile number on Facebook / google - a public Facebook profile and some photos and can you a wonderful insight into that well-presented tenant whom you had the pleasure of meeting earlier! I once, just by chance, stuck the mobile numbers of a couple who visited my property, he said he was a translator and she said she was a teacher. Both the given mobile numbers were linked to a internet escorting page with both of them on and their photos?! Suffice to say they didn't get the house!!!

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Shuey 15th April, 2013 @ 15:16

Response time - i usually find if tenants are slow to respond they aren't that interested and I continue advertising until they put down the check in fee

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The Landlord Avatar
The Landlord 15th April, 2013 @ 18:51

@John

I can tolerate people being late, it happens. But what I can't tolerate is "rude" lateness, it's just like you described, when people don't bat an eyelid and aren't even aware that being late is rude!

I also reference tenants on Facebook. Here you go...

The Results Of Referencing Prospective Tenants On Facebook

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CMJ 26th April, 2013 @ 17:15

Two weeks ago, a prospective tenant (a hot female one) started trying to haggle but as she did so started fiddling with the buttons on her shirt so one came undone! I nearly snapped my pencil whilst filling in my name and address on her application form!!

I knew I would say yes to every single demand so gave it to someone else!

Landlords in Manchester, beware of any boob based negotiations!

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DavidGilmour 2nd May, 2013 @ 17:48

I'd immediately tell you to go fuck yourself if you told me to remove my shoes to inspect a flat. It's just not British!

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Emma 3rd May, 2013 @ 15:30

Well if you were viewing my place your bad manners would have lost you a very clean property with a landlord who cares about what they rent out. There are plenty of shit holes out there where you can waltz around with your shoes on. Most you may have to wipe them on the way out!!

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Shuey 3rd May, 2013 @ 15:45

Ditto

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Jen 4th May, 2013 @ 08:46

Agree 100% with the 'overly demanding' one. We have one of these at the moment and she is a pain in the @rse. Never again.

NB: I'm a pedant - you may want to check the spelling of your post title - it's potentially, not potentionally.
My pleasure ;)

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The Landlord Avatar
The Landlord 4th May, 2013 @ 19:20

@Jen

Cannot believe I never noticed that, and also you're the first person to pick up on it (or at least notify me)!

Many thanks :)

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Ros Beck 22nd May, 2013 @ 13:18

It was interesting enough, but I was really put off by your sexist stuff about hard-core porn and prostitutes. As a professional female landlord, I think you're going to put off some of your readership by writing as though only a certain kind of man were reading...

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The Landlord Avatar
The Landlord 22nd May, 2013 @ 18:34

@Ros

I'm just glad you found it interesting.

If you subscribe to my newsletter, you can be sure to keep up to date with my blog.

Hope you return soon :)

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C.J 5th June, 2013 @ 18:16

I was once showing a Prospective tenant round a property and asked him why he wanted to move. He said "I'm being evicted for not paying the rent".

I then told him he was not renting from me and he threatened to sue!!

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Emma 6th June, 2013 @ 12:45

C.J - That's a classic!!! :)

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CMO 27th December, 2013 @ 23:55

This post has really cheered me up, cheers again for your ace website. I have had such a turdy day today....negoiating a Deed of variation for the lease on our block of flats because one retarded owner who is facing repossession and has buggered off to East Africa hadn't checked his lease and realised that as it stands he cannot sell to a BTL landlord...then mended his fence to deter squatter types..removed bindweed...took ivy off a communal wall...starting to feel like property Superwoman...then bumped into my awful demanding tenant who, i kid you not, demands a new roof and upvc window as the recent gales have affected her sleep. Unbelievable. I have got her three new white goods and replaced a floor for Madam. Oh, and she's German. Pushy mare.

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big al jones 3rd October, 2014 @ 16:57

spot on,facebook is a good source,also a smell of the bob hope on most of our male friends jumpers??the best trump card for me is the guarantor card,ask mum or dad,8 out of 10 would be seen scarpering like rats,get a photo check or passport ,do the credit check,if the guarantor passes,yeah have the keys.
been in this game for 10 years for everlearning,the above seems to work.
do not rent to family or friends,nightmare,paying the price from my sister in law,feisty little cow,and abusive partener,but mr section 21 on its way!!!!

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Gary Jackson 27th August, 2015 @ 11:39

I had a tenant from hell that kept the local Police and Anti-social tenant behaviour dept in Private Sector Housing at the local council busy for 6 months. She was a F@$%ING GEM. Best complaint by far in my career from her was "You need to get over here NOW and cut the flowers down coz there attracting bees, you don't care about your tenants and don't do your landlord duties your only bovered about the money, I'm gonna report you if you don't do it NOW" - Priceless !

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Gary Jackson 27th August, 2015 @ 11:44

Oh and..... Get a life Ros Beck !

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ThePinch 2nd December, 2016 @ 05:38

I just had an in-town prospective tenant tell me that she wanted to visit my rooms for rent, offering me a 3 hour window on Monday. As I was out of the city, she wanted a tenant to show it. NEXT.

Last week a prospective tenant wanted his appointment bumped up by 2.5 hours, then walked on to brand new oak floors and a wet kitchen floor with his boots on. NEXT.

A prospective tenant driving 3 hours texted me at her appointment time and wanted another two more hours. No thank you, God Bless. She came to my door anyway and shouted,cried and texted for ten minutes. NEXT.

The best was last week when a man wanted to move a family of four into a room I had posted for a single. At the single price.

No.No.No. My pricing is very competitive and the facilities are top of the line. My terms are completely transparent and posted in detail. After nearly twenty years in this business I've learned to stand my ground. And the rumours are true: the best deals are with agreeable people.

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