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How to Avoid the Tenant from Hell
How to avoid bad tenants

Ah, the tenant selection process… it’s where you are made or played as a landlord. Almost your entire success as a landlord hinges upon selecting the right tenant for your rental property.

I just went through the process again this July for one of my properties and let me tell you, I met some interesting people. I also met some fantastic potential tenants. And for the first time in my career as a landlord, I had two tenants selected who bailed the day we were supposed to sign the lease. The first one did so because she received a call from another landlord whose property was quite a bit closer to her work. And the second, because his parents decided to match his savings so he could buy a house. Both would have been great tenants, but nevertheless, I found an even better tenant to make my property his home: A stand-up like-minded guy; a self-proclaimed neat freak who is very handy. He is well educated, has a great job and is ambitiously looking to move up the ranks in his field. It’s a great feeling when you know you’ve selected the right tenant for your property…

That said, there are many types of prospective tenants to look out for when showing your rental. I’ve prepared a list for you:


The Seven Types of Tenants

Royalty: Wants things customized to their liking… this is the high maintenance tenant from hell.

An attentive tenant is great, but a nitpicker who looks for problems is a landlord life-ruiner. Funny story:

As mentioned, I recently listed one of my investment properties for rent. We just finished renovating the entire suite. It looks great, and it’s one I’m very proud of…

A middle-aged couple came in to view it – they were my very first viewing. The wife loved it, but the husband (who was a self-described general contractor) began to grill me on what renovation work was done to the place. I let him know how the kitchen, bathroom, and bedrooms were all redone…

He walks into the bathroom, looks down at the toilet, and asks “You sure this is a new toilet?” I chuckled, “yup, pretty sure, unless Lowes sold me a used toilet.” First off, the toilet was clearly new. It’s easy to tell the difference between an old and new toilet. His response was, “well it just seems low is all. They don’t make them that low anymore.”

Later, he asks to see the garage after telling me he would be parking his “summer car” in it. “Looks good, can I put some of my tools in here?” “Sure” I responded. Then he recommended I “build a two car garage.” My response was a chuckle because I thought he was joking. He wasn’t.

After his lovely wife filled out an application on-site, I walked them outside and he bangs on the wall, apparently to see if the porch light was working… The light flickered on… he proceeded to proudly proclaim I had a faulty connection… my response was, “Oh, no, that’s a sensor light.”

Stay away from these types of tenants. They’re bored and looking to kill time. Tenants who expect you to upgrade your property solely for their benefit, before they have even moved in, are delusional and the ones that will call you on Thanksgiving to let you know the furnace needs a new filter.


The Paranoid: checks locks on the windows, safety features, etc.


The Trasher: Their car is filthy (Click here to read about the correlations between a messy car and a careless tenant); they walk in, compliment the entire place, and offer a damage deposit and first month’s rent on-site.

Aside from the car, this all sounds great. But unless you’re in a white hot rental market, this should send red flags. While decidedness is good, this type of eagerness says they are in a time pinch (which should be questioned) and might not really care too much where they live. Great tenants, the ones who want to make your rental property their home, scour the market, take an application, and proceed to make their own educated decision based on what they’ve seen. People who are desperate for a place often don’t really care where they are living, and therefor may not be too appreciative of the accommodations. It is also a sign of disorganization and perhaps a falling out with their previous landlord.


The Vagabond: Gets dropped off in a loud car, views your suite, fills out an application and asks if the lease is month to month; and then tells you their friend will also be living with them (whom you have never met)… red flag.


The Critter Collector:  Nice bubbly person who you want to rent to until she tells you she has a dog… two fat and lazy cats, and a hamster…

If you want your rental property to smell like a dude ranch, then by all means.


Scatterbrains: Reschedules the viewing twice, and still ends up showing up late. If they can’t show up on time for a viewing, what’s to say they won’t be late with rent?


The Ideal: Shows up early for the viewing to get an idea of the neighbourhood. Well put together, takes her time going through the rental, and approaches you afterward with a few applicable and thoughtful questions based on what she’s seen. Depending on your answers, she either fills out a tenant application on-site or takes it home. She also very clearly explains to you what she does for a living and doesn’t air her dirty laundry (I’m always surprised how prospective tenants want to tell me their life story when applying for the rental. In many cases, these stories aren’t very flattering to their decision making abilities – let’s just put it that way.)


When selecting a tenant, don’t hesitate to asks questions. No need to be an interrogator, but chat them up. Ask where they work, why they like the neighborhood, etc. The more you get them talking, the easier it is to decide on a tenant. If they show strong interest in your rental property, and you get a good first impression, let them know what kind of landlord you are. Explain to them that you take pride in your rental and are looking for someone who will do the same.

Look out for these seven types of tenants during your next rental property showing. Life is much better as a landlord when you find great tenants.

Stay hungry,
Aaron Hoddinott signature


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