5 Renter Screening Red Flags You Can't Afford to Ignore

5 Renter Screening Red Flags You Can't Afford to Ignore

As a responsible landlord, conducting thorough tenant screenings is crucial to protect your rental property and ensure a positive renting experience for all parties involved. While many landlords are aware of the importance of checking credit and criminal records, there are several less obvious warning signs that can surface during the tenant screening process. Ignoring these indicators could lead to potential headaches and financial losses down the line. Let's delve into the 7 renter screening warning signs that you must pay attention to:

The Big Three: Criminal, Credit, and Eviction Reports

Before we explore the lesser-known red flags, let's review the fundamentals of tenant screening:

  • Understand Your Renter's Criminal Background: Performing a criminal background check helps identify any potential risks that an applicant may pose to your rental property or the neighborhood. While not all criminal records are automatic deal-breakers, it's essential to be aware of any relevant convictions, especially those that could jeopardize safety. Effective January 30, 2023, (Cook County, Chicago), the "Just Housing Ordinance" allows a landlord a period of only three years to consider a tenant's criminal conviction history.   
  • Go Beyond a Traditional Renter Credit Check: While credit checks are common, they may not provide the most accurate predictors of timely rent payments. Consider using specialized services like MySmartMove, designed for the rental industry, to get a better assessment of an applicant's risk level.
  • Uncover Previous Evictions: Applicants with a history of evictions are more likely to experience eviction-related events in the future. Understanding an applicant's eviction history is essential for avoiding costly and disruptive eviction processes.

5 Hidden Renter Screening Warning Signs

In addition to the above-mentioned warning signs, keep an eye out for these less apparent red flags that may signal potential problems:

  1. Asking to Skip Formal Tenant Screening: Applicants who insist on bypassing formal tenant screening should raise concerns. While it may be tempting to fill a vacancy quickly, skipping proper screening could lead to disastrous consequences. Always conduct thorough tenant screenings to ensure applicants meet your requirements.

  2. Providing Their Own Credit Report: Accepting credit reports directly from applicants may seem convenient, but it's crucial to obtain reports from FCRA-compliant providers. Relying on self-provided reports could lead to outdated or fabricated information.

  3. Frequent Moving History: Applicants with a pattern of frequent moves warrant closer examination. Understanding the reasons behind their relocations can help you assess their stability as tenants.

  4. Long Gaps in Employment: Applicants with extended periods of unemployment should provide valid explanations for these gaps. Ensure their income stability aligns with your rental requirements.

  5. In a Hurry to Move: Applicants in a rush to move should be asked about their urgency, and an eviction report can help verify their rental history.


Identifying these renter screening warning signs is crucial for safeguarding your rental business and maintaining a positive renting environment. By conducting comprehensive tenant screenings and paying attention to these subtle indicators, you can make informed leasing decisions that benefit both you and your tenants. Remember, investing time in proper screening is a small price to pay for long-term peace of mind and successful landlord-tenant relationships.

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