How to Identify and Avoid Professional Tenants

How to Identify and Avoid Professional Tenants

Last Updated: May 11, 2023 by Cameron Smith

Professional tenants are the worst types of renters a landlord can have. However, there are plenty of strategies for discovering them before they sign a lease.

 What is a Professional Tenant?

A professional tenant is someone who signs a lease with the intention of paying little or no rent.

They will complain and withhold rent at every opportunity, and they understand every legal loophole around rental units in order to postpone evictions. These are tenants who will often threaten landlords with every possible course of action, especially using the legal system. As many landlords won’t want to deal with this, they may allow the professional tenant to stay longer despite paying little rent.

By the time a landlord has evicted this nightmare tenant, the unit will often be in terrible condition and the landlord will have lost thousands of dollars.

Common Tactics Used By Professional Tenants

These types of tenants usually have a specific playbook they follow to maximize their time in your unit with the lease amount of rent paid.

Paying Partial Rent – When a landlord accepts a partial rent payment, it’s usually accompanied by an agreement that the tenant will pay the rest at a later date. This is a stall tactic in order to delay being served with an eviction. It’s worth noting that landlords should not accept partial payments after the eviction process has started as some states will have you restart the eviction process (a fact that professional tenants are likely aware of).

Paying in Cash – Cash is much harder to track. Professional tenants can lie about how much money has exchanged hands and can even forge receipts. In the event the landlord and tenant find themselves in court, proof of nonpayment will be much harder to come by.

Dodging Late Fees –  Professional tenants know that landlords care much more about the rent than the late fees. Landlords will tire of becoming a debt collector and often will stop pursuing late fees if at least most of the rent is being paid. This also shows the tenant that the landlord can be flexible on rules if pushed hard enough.

Claiming the Unit is Uninhabitable – Tenants are often legally allowed to withhold rent if the unit is uninhabitable. An awful tenant could damage the unit on purpose in order to withhold rent.

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How to Spot a Professional Tenant

During the tenant screening process, look for certain red flags that can indicate a professional tenant. Here’s what to look out for:

  • History of evictions, litigation, or delinquency with prior landlords
  • Extensive knowledge of landlord-tenant law
  • A poor financial record with several bankruptcies, judgments, collections, or bad credit
  • Gaps in recent rental history with no reasonable explanation
  • Incomplete, non-existent, or even fake landlord references

How to Avoid a Professional Tenant

Landlords must always run thorough background checks on potential tenants and watch out for red flags. Here are some tips for avoiding professional tenants during screening:

  • Call all landlord references and ask them insightful questions about the potential tenant. They are your best resource for uncovering a professional tenant.
  • Verify all employment information, bankruptcy records, criminal and court records.
  • Perform a proper credit check.
  • Interview all potential tenants personally.

Professional tenants should be avoided at all costs. A meticulous screening process is imperative if a landlord wants to keep professional tenants out of their units.