Tenant Screening Horror Stories: Meet Mr. Perfect

Even experienced landlords are confronted with risky applicants who become problem tenants. That's because we all want to believe the best about people.

Take, for instance, one landlord who thought she had found Mr. Perfect. She couldn't have been more wrong.

This landlord was renting a single-family home in a fairly upscale community, and wanted someone who would fit in. Her leading applicant was a well-spoken gentleman on the phone, and said he had a great income. He was eager to move in right away. No more vacancy!

When Mr. Perfect arrived, the landlord could see that he drove a nice car. He was clean-shaven, neatly groomed, and wore a button-down shirt on the weekend. He shook her hand, and the two had a pleasant conversation as they toured the property. The landlord was thrilled when this applicant said he wanted to take the place right on the spot.

The landlord brought an application along which the applicant said he'd fill out and return. He didn't bring his checkbook, but he agreed to pay a deposit and application fee in cash so the landlord would take the property off the market.

The new tenant delivered the application as promised, along with more cash for first month's rent. On the application, the candidate listed a large income from being a successful entrepreneur. Given what she'd seen so far, the landlord opted to provide a lease right then and there, and they both sealed the deal.

It was just a few weeks later when a neighbor called the landlord to let her know that the rental house was surrounded by police, including what appeared to be a SWAT team. Mr. Perfect had been arrested in a sting operation. Inside, officers confiscated drugs, illegal weapons and hoards of cash. Outside, the property was adorned with crime scene tape, and neighbors were grumbling over the landlord's carelessness.

While, a cash business is always a red flag that needs further investigation, running a renter background check on Mr. Perfect would have revealed a number of other discrepancies between his story and the truth.

Several weeks later, the police released the property back to the landlord, and she was able to recover the property. Next time around, she ran tenant screening reports before turning over the keys to her property.

This experience may seem extreme, but the fact is stories like this happen every day to landlords across the country. Maybe it's the "cash-only" tenant who is running a drug grow-op, or perhaps it's a tenant who has been evicted two or three times before, and makes ripping off landlords a lifestyle choice.

It's fine to hope for the best with your rental applicants, but you can't leave it to chance when it comes to signing a lease with a stranger. Run a tenant check on each candidate under serious consideration. Otherwise, you might not like the surprise your new renter has in store for you.