How Landlords Can Avoid Bad Tenants

How Landlords Can Avoid Bad Tenants

In this crazy world we live in, someone decided to make a profession out of being a “bad tenant”, and like all batshit ideas, it caught on like wild fire.

These “professional bad tenants” are ruthless as they are ugly; they jump from property to property with the intention of falling into arrears, leaving behind a trial of innocent landlords in turmoil. Often unrecoverable.

They navigate the [flimsy] system by taking advantage of every trick and loophole in the book, allowing them to live rent-free for as long as possible, with minimal retribution. It’s such a sad state of affairs.

Alas, the back-logged UK legal system and courts are often unhelpful and unsympathetic to the cause, as many battle-wounded landlords will be able to attest to.

So, regrettably, this is very much one of those situations where prevention is better than cure, so in other words, the best solution is to avoid the fraudsters altogether.

Here are a few ways to avoid professional bad tenants:

1) Tenant referencing

First and foremost, make sure you thoroughly reference ALL prospective tenants, which should include the following:

  • Credit checks
  • Employment status/history
  • Current and previous rental details
  • Employment references
  • Landlord references

All of the above and more is covered in the Tenant Referencing & Credit Check Guide for landlords, which I highly recommend reading if you haven’t done so already!

In recent years there has been a spike in fraudulent tenancy applications, which includes the use of:

  • Fake IDs e.g. passports and driving licences
  • Doctored documentation e.g. payslips and bank statements
  • Fake references

So needless to say, being vigilant and thorough is critical! I always recommend using a professional referencing service to assist with the process (which I cover in my Tenant Referencing & Credit Check Guide).

2) Be wary of cash payers

Tenants may offer to pay rent upfront for a large period e.g. 6 months. While it may seem appealing and an ideal situation for a landlord, it may often be an evil ploy to disguise sinister activities.

It’s not unheard of for tenants to pay cash upfront for a few reasons, but the 2 most common I’ve heard about are:

  • The tenant doesn’t want to be disturbed and wants the landlord to stay away from the property because they’re harbouring illegal activity in the property e.g. growing drugs
  • The tenants have AWFUL rental history, so the offering of large some of cash is a diversion

Of course, this may not always be the case, but it’s something to be wary about.

3) Be Wary of DSS tenants

Rightly or wrongly so, DSS Tenants are becoming more and more associated with the term “bad tenants”

DSS tenants receive Housing Benefit from the government to help with living expenses i.e. rent. A lot of DSS tenants are becoming notoriously known for pocketing their allowance, consequently failing to pass it onto their landlord.

I’m not saying every DSS tenant is guilty of this crime, because they’re not. I’m just saying, make sure you know the complications of DSS tenants before accepting one.

4) Don’t accept the first tenant that comes along

It’s true, the longer a property remains vacant the more expensive it becomes for the landlord. Consequently, landlords are often inclined to accept the first tenant that comes along. While that may seem like the financially safe solution, it can often have the opposite affect. The fact is, finding a bad tenant quickly will cost you more than finding a good tenant slowly.

It’s important to take time over vetting your prospective tenants and making sure they’re right for both you and the property.

5) Don’t be afraid to say no

This can often be daunting, especially if confrontation isn’t your thing, which I can totally relate to. Over the years I’ve had to learn to be firmer in order to be sufficient at being a landlord. Some tenants just take the absolute piss, and you need to be authoritative in order to keep things in order, otherwise you’ll just get trampled over. Be firm, but fair.

If a prospective tenant shows complete interest but you’re having doubts for whatever reason, have the courage to say no. Do NOT feel obliged to accept if you do not feel comfortable.

Simply inform the interested applicant that you have several viewings booked and you intend on taking them all before you make your decision. It’s a perfectly plausible and normal situation.

On that note, do NOT under any circumstances stop looking for tenants until you have completely secured tenants, which means someone has 1) paid their deposit in full 2) paid their first month’s rent in full 3) signed contracts 4) moved into the property (point 4 should not even occur unless 1-3 have been completed).

Until all the above is fulfilled, keep on taking viewings and processing applications. Tenants frequently delay move in dates or pull out from the arrangement all together, and there’s usually little landlords can do to recoup that lost time/money.

Don’t take your tenants word or allow them to earn your trust at this stage, despite how much they assure you they are interested and intending on moving in, it means nothing until they actually move in. Absolutely NOTHING!

6) Take a full deposit

ALWAYS take a full deposit, stay clear of tenants that want to pay in instalments; not only does it highlight their financial difficulties, but it also adds legal complications when it comes to the tenancy deposit legislation. More details over at the tenancy deposit guide.

7) Mannerisms and early signs of bad tenants

I’ve written a whole blog post that focuses on early signs of potentially bad tenants, which you can read over here in full. But in short, you may want to be wary of your prospective tenants if:

  • They try to overly haggle with the price
  • They keep rescheduling and/or arrive late to the viewings, without apologising or giving you prior notification
  • If they have a scruffy appearance and/or bad odours

8) Don’t overly value a tenant’s job status/role

This is an easy honey-strap to get lured into, and perhaps that’s why it’s a sticky situation many landlords find themselves in.

I’ve been mesmerised by prospective tenant’s that came with high salaries and prestigious positions in society, and it eventually cost me, because I put too much stock in those factors.

Of course, we all want to unearth “working professional” that have good salaries. Not a bad goal, and I encore. However, don’t isolate and OVERLY value those factors.

Some of the filthiest asshole tenants I’ve had the displeasure of encountering were so-called working professionals. Two notable examples, a head-chef from a prestigious restaurant and a highly qualified Oral Surgeon. I mention those two specific examples because you’d expect people in their position to have impeccably high-standards in terms of hygiene. I’ll spare you from the gory details, but in both cases, the end of tenancy clean-up process involved scraping off various types of congealed and unidentifiable goo off surfaces throughout the property. Absolutely fifthly pigs!

Just remember, just because someone is earning good money or has a respectable job, it doesn’t mean they will make a good tenant!

Minimising damage in case you get a bad tenant

Unfortunately, even if you follow each tip above, there’s still opportunity for bad tenants to slip through the net because we’re dealing with humans here, in a world where “shit happens”- even to the best of us. That’s what they’re trained to do. In a worst case scenario, there are certain steps a landlord can take in order to minimise the damage when they’ve mistakenly harboured a bad tenant.

1) Always have a written Tenancy Agreement!

Forget a “gentlemen’s agreement”. We’re not living in the Wild West anymore. A spit-handshake doesn’t mean shit in today’s society. It’s all about lack of trust, and consequently the use of secure written contracts.

Get the terms and conditions of any tenancy in a written tenancy agreement, with the signature of both landlord and tenant.

I’m always astounded each time I receive an email from someone regarding a dilemma they’ve encountered due to the absence of a written tenancy agreement, because they trusted the tenant enough to form an oral tenancy agreement. That, by definition, is a recipe for disaster.

There are tonnes of free Tenancy Agreement Contracts available online to download. Granted, the majority of them are junk and out of date, but that’s when you need to be diligent in your research in order to separate the wheat from the chaff. Perhaps you may require some Tips On How To Check If Your Tenancy Agreement Is Any Good

2) Start with a 6 month agreement

It’s always good to start with a short term agreement so you can serve notice sooner rather than later if shit hits the fan.

If the tenant proves to be well behaved after the initial 6 months, then you can easily create a new tenancy agreement and extend the terms. Alternatively, just allow the agreement roll into a Periodic Tenancy.

3) Insist on a Guarantor

Don’t agree to take on a tenant unless they can organise a guarantor. A guarantor is someone that is willing to accept responsibility for any rental payments the tenant may miss. If the tenant can’t get a guarantor, then obviously they’re not trusted…or they have no friends and family. In either case, both scenarios are repelling.

Tenant Guarantor Form

4) Landlord Rental Loss & Damage Insurance

If you’re a landlord that’s allowing complete strangers rent your property, I highly recommend getting rent guarantee and legal expenses insurance. The policies are relatively inexpensive, and could potentially save you a heap of money.

Landlord rental Insurance can cover loss in rent and legal charges. If after the initial terms of the agreement expire and your tenant proves to be well behaved, then you can terminate the policy.

5) Regular Property Inspections

Landlords are legally entitled to make regular inspections during a tenancy, yet most landlords that manage their own property can’t be bothered.

Come on, all you need to do is arrange a time and day with your tenant and spend 5mins looking around the property. Trust me, you don’t want to be added to the growing list of landlords that have been fucked over by tenants that have turned their properties into Cannabis Farms. Or perhaps you do; I don’t know, I’m just speculating.

In all good tenancy agreement contracts there will be a clause stating that the landlord is entitled to make inspections of the property with the consent of the tenant. It might be worth ensuring a clause like that is present in your tenancy agreement.

Be wary though, the landlord must give their tenant 24 hours notice which the tenant must agree to before entering the property.

6) Allow funds to clear

Don’t hand over any keys or allow the tenant to enter the property until you have the deposit and first months rent cleared into your account, this especially applies for cheques.

Many professional bad tenants will hand over a cheque (which will inevitably bounce), hoping that the landlord will immediately hand over the keys in good faith (before the cheque has cleared). Rookie mistake.

As soon as a tenant has the keys and permission to enter the property, they legally become a tenant, despite whether or not the funds clear. At this point, it can take up to several months before they get removed.

Seeking professional advice

One of the biggest mistakes a landlord can make when dealing with a problematic tenant is trying to take the situation into their own hands.

The thought of getting professional help to evict your troublesome tenants may sound expensive, and may even feel uneasy on your pride, but that’s nonsense. Stop being a stubborn mule. It’s often cheaper to get professional help than trying to handle it by yourself.

Professionals will know exactly what to do, and they’ll do it efficiently and legally.

Leave your baby cousin’s Superman cape in his draw, and leave it the Tenant Eviction Professionals.

Anyone got anymore tips?

28 Join the Conversation...

Guest Avatar
Dr Nogood 21st February, 2009 @ 00:15

What's the problem? Do what every other tinpot 'property developer' landlord does and steal your next decent tenants deposit.

The Landlord Avatar
The Landlord 21st February, 2009 @ 01:05

That wouldn't cover months of lost rent :)

And I don't steal.

And you clearly know nothing about deposits. They're handled by protection schemes.

And I'm not a "property developer"

Wow, that's 0 out of 3. Good job.

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Dr Nogood 22nd February, 2009 @ 20:08

They are now...but they are nothing but kangaroo courts which favour landlord's spurious often cretinous claims of 'damage', when they mean 'fair wear and tear'. I'll just go directly to the small claims court after I finish my latest bout with a shite landlord...why wait for them to try to fuck you over for pennies? Preempt the garbage brained tosser and take his monkey ass to court!

Of course you don't think you steal...landlords used to consider it their right to steal an entire deposit and do no works...(landlord bonus scheme!)now they need to falsify documents to pretend the works have been carried out, or charge themselves out at £200 per hour (well worth it for an ill educated, self rightous, cretinous, negative equity drowned rat of a human!).

I pay my rents on time, look after my rabbit hutch and try to respect my landlord (very hard!)...he returns the favour by fucking me at every turn...excellent fellow.

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GillsMan 22nd February, 2009 @ 20:24

Dr Nogood - apt name there. Dr Noclue would be slightly better though.

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Dr Nogood 24th February, 2009 @ 16:20

Genius GillsMan, genius.

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Anonymous (Landlord) 11th August, 2010 @ 01:06

1. Tenants who trash properties are evil. They think they are hurting the landlord, but it also hurts the next tenants. I refurbished a property only to find that the brand new kitchen was trashed within two years. I did my best to repair, but I felt sorry for my next tenant as they could have got a much nicer place to live in if it had not been for the previous tenant.

It has left a sour taste in my mouth, don't spend too much money just incase you get a nasty tenant and it discourages refurbishing properties.

This tenant destroyed the kitchen units, I could not get matching ones, so I just painted them and had to get the builder to polyfilla the cabinet and this is on a kitchen that had been fitted 3 years ago!

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Anonymous (Landlord) 11th August, 2010 @ 01:08

Tenants credit checks are limited. They don't tell you how many times a tenant has been taking to court under S21, although it will say it the tenant has been taken to court under S8 (some grounds).

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Shelly 31st August, 2010 @ 13:44

Nice to see tenants are using this site too although its a shame about Nogood! harping on about landlords. Try doing your own research on the landlords it works both ways- I am happy to supply references for my tenants. As for the the other comments it could be said that there is a reason that you are the tenant and not the landlord!

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Twattybollocks 1st September, 2010 @ 08:27

Hey Shelly,

Don't worry about Dr Nogood. He's been harping on for ages - something to do with his care in the community programme and everyone thinks he is a twat anyway! He likes to bitch and moan about how bad Landlords are when he hasn't got the bottle to try running his own business!

Nice to be able to coment from the cheap seats..........


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zorro 7th November, 2010 @ 18:15

We had a tenant who moved into our property in Loughborough 2 years ago. A lettings agent in LE12 supposedly referenced him. Ha ha! The references were not worth the paper they were written on.
He used an assumed name and gave false references. He trashed our prpoerty and did not pay us any rent. We went to court to get him evicted.
After he moved out I found out that he had used over a dozen assumed names to open utilities accounts not only in Loughborough but also in Brighton. We've spoken to some previous landlords who tell the same story.
The police say that although he trashed our property and stole some of the furniture, it's all 'civil matters' and there's nothing they can do.
We wanted to get a CCJ against him but we don't know his real name and his new address. That's why, in our case, the credit check done by Experian was a waste of time- you can't do a credit check on someone who gives false details, or someone else's details.
We know the name he is currently using in Brighton but not his address. He's now a music and arts promoter and has set up a website. I hope he rots in hell!
Where's the justice?

Guest Avatar
Jeremy 3rd February, 2012 @ 21:27

Let us know when you've lit up your fourth spliff of the evening, Arachana

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Pat Lucey 9th July, 2014 @ 10:44

I always have a look at the prospective tenants car if dirty and untidy deal

I will ask to view prospective tenants existing accommodation . If deal

I will ask for drivers lincence and passport ...if hesitant deal

I will be aware of the hairs on the back of my neck ..if standing deal

I will ask to speak to and seek out employers

I have been renting accommodation for over 20 years only ever had two problems

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HelenM 16th September, 2014 @ 17:19

I have recently been informed that the tenants of (2 months) have been having loud gathering music blaring and games on the law at 2 pm gone.

This happened on the first night they moved in. So ok, maybe they having house warming party.

But I have been informed that it has happened again.

Any advice?

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Zetita 24th September, 2014 @ 19:32

I think good references check would work, but asking for a guarantor is too much. I would ask for a guarantor ONLY for DSS.

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Richard 9th January, 2015 @ 21:52

I am in Scotland and have been reading the comments and from myself and other landlords up here, we do not entertain DSS as it is not worth the hassle to have your homes wrecked countless times before you find the "elusive" GOOD DSS tenant who no doubt exists. The Scottish Legal and Justice system does NOTHING to support landlords.

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Steve 25th March, 2015 @ 12:40

To Anonomous,I only fit IKEA kitchens now I use there own software to design it using the cheaper options and just white doors,if anything breaks re-order the part number and get it delivered.Everything is added up as you go along and all the part numbers are printed off,the only problem is assembly and collection.
We should have some kind of local list of bad tenants,and anyone proven to damage good housing stock should have the money come out of there pay cheque or social cheque.
As this is a very big problem

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Daniel 27th March, 2015 @ 13:35

I find that disgusting that Tennants can't be trusted because they have no guarantor yes we don't have friends or family but that's just discrimination we have chosen to stay a way from them because we have health conditions that are made worse with contact with them so for an easier life we do things ourselves please don't just right people off like that we have looked after our current property and have no issues with rent so just because someone don't have a guarantor doesn't mean they are bad people we have our reasons for this which is reasons that are unasociated with our property or rent

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Daniel 27th March, 2015 @ 13:46

I do understand that landlords have clauses in their mortgage/insurance that prevents them letting to dss Tennants the thing is not all dss Tennants ar
bad my partner suffers with ptsd and needs me to
look after her I find it hard to get a guarantor but we are willing to pay our way all we want is a fresh start in life and for that we seem to be bad people I just wish we could meet the landlord personally but we can't because we get wrote off at first hurdle by agents our landlord has said they will write us a reference we are not bothered about having rent paid to us I would rather have it paid to landlord or agent whichever is preferable no we get criticised for wishing to pay our way

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Daniel 27th March, 2015 @ 13:58

And also i don't have anything against the landlord coming into the property but if something goes missing the would the landlord appreciate his Tennants accusing him/her of theft??? They can inspect any time as long as we are there bearing in mind I have a vulnerable partner so yes I would like to be present during an inspection to avoid any confusion and whilst I won't pass a credit check because we are on a very low income does that mean we are bad people an LL can look after their own partner then obviously I'm doing no wrong by looking after mine if any LL wants to talk to me then fine I don't have any problems with that thank you

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thepinc h 1st May, 2015 @ 22:41

Has anyone stopped to consider - ever - that the Landlord is on a disability annuity? That tenants regularly subject landlords to discrimination, fraud, physical harm, bankruptcy? That the tone and argumentativeness offered here is EXACTLY the kind of nightmare a landlord would not want under their roof?

I have always done right by my tenants, and have the recommendations to prove it. I screen out anyone who screens or behaves remotely like an asshole.

Take your lowlife arguments to someone who will listen. Many of us place high value on ourselves, our properties, and our tenants. There are lots of trashy places that will put up with disrespectful peop;le.

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dodgegeeza 29th July, 2015 @ 14:45

All difficult indeed. I've been renting (good tenant, move often due to contract work) for the last 4 years and at one house the landlord borrowed some bits from the shed, didn't return them and well, you can work out the rest: not the best of experiences. I suspect it's like any area of business and life, there's a minority who spoil it for everyone...

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ronnie 1st February, 2017 @ 22:10

Daniel, one day you may be fortunate enough to have a property of your own to rent out. I wonder if you would be quite so mouthy. There is no need for a guarantor if the tenant is in good full time employment and providing at least 3 months'payslips but to take a self-employed tenant without a guarantor is asking for trouble. No self-employed person can predict their future income so it could be highly likely that you will be chasing them for your rent after a few months.

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robbie roth 12th May, 2017 @ 00:39

Hello there.
on the site it is mentioned that a tenant who does not have a guarantor could get rent insurance for the landlord would this help ?.as I have only friends that are elderly and not working,so are not eligible to be able to ...its not because no one will be a guarantor for me as I'm not trust worthy...blah,,
Could you please advise me on this if any one has the time or inclination .I'd be seriously grateful.thanks miss Robbie Roth.

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robbie roth 12th May, 2017 @ 00:42

're above^.
I mean (take out) rent insurance,,,
to guarantee that the rent would be paid etc..thanks miss Roth.

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No Nonsense Landlord 29th May, 2017 @ 03:00

I find that credit score is a great indicator of how well a tenant will perform. Get a low scoring tenant, and be prepared for trouble. It is a great personal behavior indicator.

Income will tell you the tenants ability to pay rent, credit score will tell you the tenants desire to pay rent.

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LordOfTheLand 27th August, 2019 @ 23:50

The most common problem for London landlords is tenants renting out rooms to lodgers behind the landlords' backs.

Watch out for tenants who want to rent a one bedroom flat on their own but would have very little money left after paying rent and bills. They will turn the living room into a second bedroom and rent it out behind your back.

Also watch out for tenants who try to test you by not complying with reasonable requests for information, by turning up late, not returning your calls or by treating you like a servant. They are trying to see if you can be easily dominated and susceptible to diverse tactics to put you off making visits after they have moved in. This will make it easier for them to put a lodger in one the cupboards behind your back.

Above all, ask for their current address full name and phone number before you grant them a viewing and do your own referencing checks before you let them put down a holding deposit then do your professional referencing. London attracts the most dishonest people in the world and 90% of your enquiries will be from people who are untrustworthy.

Never rush into a tenancy because crooks will always use a variation on the theme of "I need to move in quickly". If they claim the ceiling has collapsed in their current property, ask them to show you pictures of it on their phone. Don't trust people with yellow teeth who say they don't smoke.

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Yasmin 26th November, 2019 @ 08:18

My tenant was just right.
3 months later, all mail was redirected to me, he put nothing in his name, couldnt view the home, he'd he moved in when he didnt, then found out he'd changed locks, wouldn't return my calls, kept paying cash, then when I went to change my.locks again to my horror the entire house was riddled in grow, 900 cannabis plants and these were almost ready in another 2 wks. It was the biggest quietest hall ever worth £40000+. was ruined and no forward address or contact details. Opp a school too!! Too.much to mention but has mentally put me off renting.

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Sil 30th December, 2019 @ 22:20

As an EU national moved in the UK, all these reference checks drive me insane. Landlords bragging they provide a service for those that want to not be tied down in a place. Well let me tell you when I wanted to move city noone would give me a damn flat because I didn't have a permanent job in the city 200miles away. After 2 months I managed to find some crummy flat and had to pay 6 months advance, 2 weeks later I got a full time job. Left that flat in a better state than I found it.

Ranting a bit, I understand landlords and I'd prefer to keep the property empty than have someone trash it. The Gov should make it easier to kick someone out, that way these people would mostly stop hopefully.

Currently have a 10% deposit ready for a mortgage, need a bit more for fees and any unexpected events.

















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