If you are a discriminating landlord, you surely have a number of conditions on which you will disqualify a prospective tenant. As long as you discriminate legally, and not against any Fair Housing Laws, we may share the same “Deal Breakers” below. Some of these can go either way, depending on the needs of the landlord.
Do you know what a person has to go through before deciding to declare bankruptcy? It can sometimes be years of dodging creditors and bill collectors. It is a process that teaches an individual how to get around paying creditors. It is not a pleasant experience, and it usually educates and hardens a person towards all creditors. I don’t mean to say people who have gone bankrupt are not nice people or will not be good tenants! I mean to say that I prefer not to rent to people who are not afraid to damage their already damaged credit.
- Prior Eviction
Any tenant who has been evicted probably has very bad credit and may feel confident in gaining a few months free rent in an eviction should the need arise.
- Criminal History
I’ve been asked by a few landlords, “Am I allowed to discriminate against someone with a criminal history?” Of course you can! Yes, it is legal to decline an applicant because they have a criminal record. It may not be politically correct to decline criminals, but criminals are not a protected class…. Yet. Obviously, you need to use your common sense on this. A DUI or speeding ticket, for instance, doesn’t necessarily make someone a bad tenant, while a conviction for domestic violence could be more of a warning sign.
- No Money
Are you a landlord who needs to collect the rent or are you a charity who takes in unfortunates who don’t have all the required move-in money? If you want to survive in the landlord business, you need tenants who can afford to move in and pay the rent every month. It is a major red flag when a prospect is unable to provide you with the necessary security deposit and rent. I am amazed at how many landlords allow tenants to move-in without first collecting the rent and a deposit!
- Bad Credit
What is the purpose of running a credit report on a prospective tenant? You’d be surprised at how many landlords run credit reports that come up bad and still accept the applicant anyway. For me, bad credit history is a sure denial. Otherwise, why bother running a credit report? Needless to say, credit history is often indicative of how your rent will be paid.
- Tenant Unable or Unwilling to provide satisfactory references
If they’re not willing or able to comply with your rental application, why in the world would you expect them to follow the rules of your lease?
- Tenant unwilling to agree with your lease
That’s a no-brainer. DECLINED! I am surprised at how many landlords are willing to sacrifice important landlord protection lease clauses simply because the tenant wants them to. Of course, you need to to be sensitive to the tenant’s needs, and weigh certain arguments on a case by case basis.
- Bad Attitude
That’s a no-brainer. DECLINED!
- Alcohol and/or Drug Problem
I know you want to be fair and help people, but steer clear of these kinds of problems, especially when they are obvious. You are looking for a responsible tenant who you can rely on.
This is a judgment call. I try to keep my properties smoke-free whenever possible. I find it is difficult to rent a unit to non-smokers that had smokers in it before. Rental re-prep involves a vacancy and is usually more painting and cleaning, and still may not eliminate the odor.
This is also a judgment call. I try to keep my properties pet-free. I learned that it can be difficult to rent after a pet was there, for allergy reasons, odors, etc. Rental re-prep usually includes more painting and cleaning and often new carpeting, and still may not eliminate all the odors. On occasion when I have great applicants and have inspected the previous home and the pet, I may make an exception, but I am still reminded of the immortal words of my landlord mentor, Nick Koon: “No dog ever improved the value of a rental property.“
- Tenant Unable or Unwilling to see the rental personally or meet landlord before application being accepted
Big red flag. Do a search of “Scams” in the LPA Landlord Q&A Forum. Even if the tenant is legit, you should not be deprived of the right to do a proper screening, including the opportunity to meet the prospect, so you can decide if you will be comfortable renting to him or her.
About the author:
As a Real Estate broker/investor in New York, John Nuzzolese has been involved with rentals and investment property since 1979. Besides owning and operating two real estate businesses, he is president and founder of The Landlord Protection Agency, Inc., an organization specializing in helping landlords and property managers avoid the hurdles and pitfalls and expensive blunders common when dealing with tenants.