Tips for Avoiding Nightmare Tenants

Success in real estate investment is totally dependent on the property owner’s ability to find and lease space to qualified, dependable tenants.  Good tenants are building blocks for a solid investment.  Each turnover in tenancy involves costs – in lost rent and the cost to prepare space for a new occupancy.  There can also be substantial legal costs involved in removing problem tenants.  While a certain amount of turnover is both inevitable and manageable, the goal must be to keep turnover to a minimum.  Turnover is a landlord’s greatest enemy.

Here are a few valuable tips for pulling in quality tenants and avoiding every landlord’s worst nightmare – the deadbeat tenant from hell who does not pay rent and destroys your property.

Don’t take shortcuts when it comes to tenant screening. – Order background and credit checks on every tenant applicant you consider and have them provide proof of income, such as a current pay stub.  Also, ask for landlord references and make every effort to contact those references.  It is also fair game to check out the social media pages of prospective tenants.  Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and Instagram are home to treasure troves of information when you are trying to find out more about a person.  Just because one report or reference comes back looking good, don’t neglect to follow-up with the other checks.

Try a little patience! – Yes, we have established that turnover costs money, but do not lease to the first tenant who comes knocking just to avoid a short-term vacancy.  The costs associated with evicting a tenant will far exceed the costs of a brief vacancy.  Develop patience and wait, if necessary, for the right tenant to come along.

Look for obvious red flags that may signal a problem tenant. – There are signs that alert landlords to tenants that are best avoided.  Anyone who is in a big hurry to move in immediately should cause you to slow down and ask a few questions.  What is the big hurry?  Were they evicted by another landlord or thrown out by their parents?  Also, beware when throngs of friends and family show up to look at a simple one-bedroom apartment.  An excessive number of people living under one roof will result in increased wear & tear and higher utility costs and may even violate the rules of your condo or homeowner’s association.  Finally, watch out for applicants who have multiple addresses over a short period.  This means they move all the time.  Before you know it, they will be moving from your property and you will be back at the drawing board in search of a steady, long-term tenant.

Consider employing a professional property manager. – If your budget has some wiggle room, you may want to opt for the services of a professional property manager.  They have websites designed to attract tenants and are already set up to screen prospective tenants in assembly line fashion.  Best of all, many investors report that property management pros can negotiate better rents than they were getting on their own.

Another way to avoid bad tenants is to be a good landlord.  Honor your own obligations under your rental agreement, respect your tenant’s privacy and your good tenants will be more inclined to renew the lease.  You may even persuade them to accept a little bump in rent to sweeten the deal!


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About Bryon Howard

Bryon Howard and his team of Calgary real estate professionals sell an average of two homes a week. He is a member of the MLS Million Point Club, which ranks him roughly in the top 1% of productive realtors in Calgary. His aim is not just to please clients but to help them buy/sell a home in Calgary at the best price, in the shortest time, and with the least hassle. He is a member of the RE/MAX House of Real Estate that leads in the Canadian market. Learn more about Bryon at