Trust but Verify * Even if your gut tells you a tenant prospect is OK!!!

Property Manager with Gibson Management Group, Ltd.

A few years ago I had a really BAD tenant.  She was GOOD at first * sold her home and wanted to down-size after the death of her husband.  Everything was good for a few years, then her daughter had to move in because of a domestic issue and that brought kids and extra dog.

Then her tutoring business fell off as Sylvan and other professional organizations came into town.

Then I had to evict her as the owner needed to sell the home for tax reasons. Once she had left and provided me with a forwarding address I was curious as to who rented to her.  Even if they did not run her credit, my eviction would show up on the court public website.

Lo and behold, her new landlord is my florist!  And YES! I have a florist in addition to a nail tech, dentist and plastic surgeon.

When I went to order my annual vendor poinsettias the next November I asked him about her. YES, she had been late with her rent a few times and NO, he did not run her credit report or check the court website.  He did not know you could do that.

After struggling with her for another year, he evicted her also.  When he was screening for his replacement tenant, he called me for the website for the local courts and I e-mailed the link to him.

He trusted his gut the last time, and this time he says he will “TRUST his gut and VERIFY".

Posted by

Wallace S. Gibson is a Certified Property Manager with over 50 years of property management experience and expertise.  She maintains a specialized property management business in Central Virginia serving Albemarle, Greene, Fluvanna and Louisa counties  


View our available Charlottesville, Albemarle and Lake Monticello rental homes online with photos and floor plans

" be a Virginian, either by Birth, Marriage, Adoption, or even on one's Mother's side, is an Introduction to any State in the Union, a Passport to any Foreign Country, and a Benediction from the Almighty God...." Anonymous


Comments (64)

Karen Fiddler, Broker/Owner
Karen Parsons-Fiddler, Broker 949-510-2395 - Mission Viejo, CA
Orange County & Lake Arrowhead, CA (949)510-2395

I think this happens a lot to people who have only one rental property. They think they can go by their gut and a "letter" from a former landlord...who could be anyone.

Apr 11, 2011 05:58 AM
Vicki Lloyd
The Lloyd Realty Group - San Diego, CA
(619)452-9798, Real Estate San Diego California

You just can't be too careful with tenant screening!  A friend of mine thought he could really "read" people and let an unscreened tenant move in.  Took a lawer + 4 1/2 months to get him out, and the house was wrecked in the mean time.  Turns out, this tenant was a professional squatter - a dis-barred attorney would knew every trick in the book to stay in a house the maximum length of time.  He was evicted 4 times during a 2 year period!!!

Apr 11, 2011 06:03 AM
Morgan Evans
Douglas Elliman Real Estate - Manhattan, NY

Being diligent with an incoming tenant is an absolute necessity. A lesson learned the extremely hardway as a bad tenant can be a huge financial and mental problem.

Apr 11, 2011 06:08 AM
Carla Muss-Jacobs, RETIRED
RETIRED / State License is Inactive - Portland, OR

Evictions are not good ... and BAD tenants tend to seek out properties for rent that are NOT professionally managed by a management company.  They want to tell their sob story to someone, like the florist. 

Apr 11, 2011 06:09 AM
Traci Ferguson
San Luis Obispo Realtor & ecoBroker with Patterson Realty - San Luis Obispo, CA
Realtor, EcoBroker, LEED AP

Great reminder post. I'm also with Mathew... I have a rigorous screening process that weeds out the riff-raff. I have gotten exceptional tenants that way.

Here is my technique... I price the room/house just below rental market rates to get a good buzz and get lots of calls. I schedule a 1 day Open house and set aside 15 min. appointments for tenants to show up. (None of this can I come by now to see the room/ house on their time.) If you are late, you don't get to come in. I also require an application I have sent them online to be completely filled out before the appointment, no form, no further conversation. Bye-Bye now! If they jump through those 2 hoops I give them a quick tour and talk to them. I ask personal questions, family history questions... it gives me insight into who they are as people. I will only rent to people I feel comfortable with. Trust your gut! By then the 15 min are up, I tell them I will be checking their references and get back to them in 2 days. Typically I have 2-3 people that have made it through every hoop out of 10 and I make my choice. It has been very useful especially in a college town with a huge damand for great rentals.

Apr 11, 2011 06:18 AM
Leslie Prest
Leslie Prest, Prest Realty, Sales and Rentals in Payson, AZ - Payson, AZ
Owner, Assoc. Broker, Prest Realty, Payson,

Our gut feeling is rarely wrong, but abslolutely we still check. We get a lot of business form Owners who let people in with little deposit and no checks, and then come to us to get them out and take over.

Apr 11, 2011 06:31 AM
Aaron Silverman, Bluewater Property Management, LLC and Lowcountry Turnkey Properties, LLC - Charleston, SC
Improving Real Estate Experience through Education

This is very true.  I have had this burn me a few times.  Now I have strick guidelines I rent by.  It is unfortunate for people who truly need a second change.


Apr 11, 2011 06:37 AM
Michael (Mike) Robinson
Broadmoor Realty, Inc. - Long Beach, CA

Yes... the good people have it so bad when these bad apples do these things.. and soon you can't trust anyone

Apr 11, 2011 07:55 AM
Evelyn Kennedy
Alain Pinel Realtors - Alameda, CA
Alameda, Real Estate, Alameda, CA


Yep, no matter how charming and sweet the prospective tenants may be my husband always obtains a credit report and calls references and past landlords.  My husband always thinks the worst of people.  I think people are truthful.  I'm like Sandi Nichols, I couldn't lie convincingly to save my life.

Apr 11, 2011 08:22 AM
Constina M. Baylor
REMAX Gold Coast Realtors Oxnard - Oxnard, CA
Broker Associate - Oxnard Homes, Oxnard Beach and Marina

I just had a young man contact me about a rental.  He was leaving the military and had just secured a civilian job.  He said he had "no credit issues at all Mam."  As my son is also military I almost waived the credit check (already offered reduced movein costs) but used my gut...I'm glad I did.  He probably is a nice young man...but I need a tenant who is nice AND has a history of decent credit.

Apr 11, 2011 10:15 AM
Jordon Wheeler
The Jordon Wheeler Group - Fairburn, GA
J W Group Real Estate Sales and Service

Wallace - when they hesitate to pay the application fee, that's red flag!  I did allow someone to write me a check and that is the last time I will ever make that mistake.  Great post and best of success to you!

Apr 11, 2011 10:56 AM
Tony Passmore
Exit Realty Welcome Home - Big Bear Lake, CA

Absolutely essential!  My wife has been a property manager for 16 years; and, although I do not practice property management myself, we live in a very small town and information is readily available from other management firms, as well as private homeowners who rent out their properties.  I honestly could not begin to count the number of times I have heard horror stories of improperly verified tenants and the problems they cause.  While properly screening a prospective tenant is in now way a guarantee that things will go well down the road; it is a necessary step in providing some amount of safety and usually pays off well!  Sound advice Wallace!

Apr 11, 2011 11:00 AM
Beverly Carlson
Carlson Properties 325-721-2429 - Abilene, TX
Abilene's Staging Realtor

Great advice,  only trust what you verify.  I have been  burned a few times and in looking back there were always Red Flags.  I agree better No tenant than a BAD tenant.

Apr 11, 2011 12:55 PM
Rodney Mason
Guaranteed Rate NMLS# 2611 - Atlanta, GA
VP of Mortgage Lending - AL, FL, GA, SC, & TN

Verification is critical.  Mortgage companies do it every day so why wouldn't a landlord?

Apr 11, 2011 01:08 PM
Sharon Alters
Coldwell Banker Vanguard Realty - 904-673-2308 - Fleming Island, FL
Realtor - Homes for Sale Fleming Island FL

Wallace, who rents to people with scores in the 500s? We just started doing rentals this year and there are some very sad cases where people have done bk due to medical bills, job loss with short sale or foreclosure, etc. We couldn't recommend them to the owners and the owners didn't want them. But where do they go? I would think everyone would screen but guess not.


Apr 11, 2011 04:12 PM
Broker Nick
South Florida Real Estate & Development, Inc. - Coconut Creek, FL
Broker Nick Relocation Broker Service

Wisdom from the Property Management Maven - Wallace Gibson

Apr 11, 2011 10:40 PM
Margie Kopp Sorrell
Coldwell Banker Lake Oconee Realty and Lake Country - Greensboro, GA
Lake Oconee Real Estate

Traci sounds like she's got it down pat! Regardless, varification is essential. You only have to get burned once to realize that!

Apr 12, 2011 01:55 AM
Mel Ahrens, MBA, Kelly Right Real Estate
Kelly Right Real Estate - Hood River, OR
Customized Choices for your Real Estate Needs

We, too, have experienced a "bad" tenant in a house we owned before. What a pain! We had to hire an attorney to get her out, which turned into legal fees, plus we had a lot of repairs to make after she was finally gone. Always check references!


Apr 12, 2011 04:09 PM
Stella Barbour
NoVa Brokers LLC - Vienna, VA
Principal Broker, Serving Virginia and Maryland

Great Post.  You tend to learn your lesson after the first time but it was probably your advice that he remembered which helped him.

Apr 15, 2011 04:06 AM
mark zubek

Interesting story.  I think I have a lot to learn here.  I like the trust but verify and still think my gut is good.

Apr 27, 2011 08:30 AM