Watch Out for These 5 Red Flags on Rental Applications

The cost of renting to the wrong person can be enormous for a landlord.  First, there is the missing rent when a renter does not pay at all.  Or if a renter constantly pays late, then there is the cost of following up with the renter and collecting late fees.  Going to court to evict a renter is not cheap either.  And once the renter is out, you have to clean up the property and make it ready to lease again – hopefully the renter has not trashed the place!  So here are a few red flags that the rental application you have could be a future headache.

Red Flag #1 – “I need to move right away.”

While there are occasionally reasons why someone may need to find a new place immediately, most normal people plan ahead.  They go out looking for a new place 30 days or more ahead of their expected moving day.  But if you talk to an experienced property manager, almost all of them will tell you the same thing: the most common reason someone needs to move right away is that they are getting evicted from their current place and need to find a new home before the constables come and force them to move out.  Evaluate why they need to move into a new place very carefully.

Red Flag #2 – “I’ve been living with my mom / sister / grandparent / cousin.”

Unless someone is in college or just graduated, most grown adults want to live in their own place.  So for most people, someone who is living with a family member is often living there because they cannot live anywhere else.  Why would they have to live with a family member?  Because they got evicted from their last home, could not find any other place that would take them, and now only their mother will put up with them.  This is more likely to be the case if they have been living with family for a year or more.  An exception would be someone who is going through a divorce and just moved in with family temporarily, or someone who just moved into the city from another location.

Red Flag #3 – “I work for a family member.”

Most of the time someone who “works” for a family member is just making up their income.  The work is unstable, sporadic, and likely to be paid in cash.  Sometimes a potential applicant in this situation will even bring in a signed affidavit from the friend or family member.  The signed affidavit is meaningless.  Anyone can write up a statement, sign it in front of a bank notary, and call it an affidavit. The exception would be someone who works in a family business, as opposed to a family member. For example, if the business is incorporated, employs multiple people, and they get real pay stubs and a W-2 at the end of the year, and has a physical location where the work is perfomed.  A family owned restuarant would fit this description.

Red Flag #4 – “I’m looking for my grandmother / aunt / good friend who is working.”

It’s vitally important to meet the person who is applying to rent.  If a person comes to you looking for a place for someone else, takes a rental application, and then returns later with that rental application, you have a potential case of identity fraud.  More than likely, the person dropping off someone else’s rental application is trying to find a place for themselves but put it in someone else’s name.  A competent property manager will want to interview the actual applicant.

Red Flag #5  – “I’m looking for a place for myself.  I have a boyfriend but they do not live with me.”

Sometimes people just aren’t ready to move in together, right?  But what happens if they do move in together?  The lease requires all occupants to be listed on the lease and guests who stay longer than 7 days can be considered unauthorized occupants.  The danger in this situation is that the boyfriend has a criminal record, and the reason he is not also applying to rent the place is because they know the application will get rejected if he is on the lease.


While these are 5 common red flags to look out for, it’s also important to keep in mind that sometimes there are legitimate reasons for why an applicant may be in one of these situations.  In other words, every applicant should still be evaluated on a case-by-case basis, in order to make sure a good applicant is not inadvertently turned away.