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Early Signs Of Potentially Awful Tenants
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 to avoid them, mainly by putting each tenant through rigorous consumer testing, whether they realise it or not!
It was Albert 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 naïve, 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.
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.
2) 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.
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”, and proceeded to 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.
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.
5) “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.
6) 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.
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 were 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 a sharp suit with shit-stuffed nails didn’t add up.
I don’t make a habit of examining or judging people’s 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 themselves and their environment.
Out of curiosity, would that have turned you off?
8) 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 analysing 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 spotlights 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 haemorrhage 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!
9) 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!
Disclaimer: I'm just a landlord blogger; I'm 100% not qualified to give legal or financial advice. I'm a doofus. Any information I share is my unqualified opinion, and should never be construed as professional legal or financial advice. You should definitely get advice from a qualified professional for any legal or financial matters. For more information, please read my full disclaimer.