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My Tenants Have Piercings, Tattoos, Blue Hair & Great Credit!

cute tenant with blue hair(I also rent to some really hot bachelors – in case some of you ladies want to get on my waiting list!) 😉

Some landlords shoot themselves in the foot by trying to prejudge which prospective tenants will be good, based on physical characteristics. This will get you into discrimination trouble, and it’s unproductive.

I remember many years ago, when my Mom managed a 90-unit complex that my Dad built. There was a club-house with an office. I think the statute of limitations has run out now so I can tell you that once my Mom locked the door and hid under her desk when a “skuzmobile” full of smokers pulled into the parking lot. This is not advised!!! (But it is a pretty funny family story.)

I have a system (for apartments) where I don’t even meet my prospective tenants until I’m there to sign the lease. So I have various funny stories about that.

One day, a few years ago, I arrived to sign a lease. There was a girl with blue hair and her hippy boyfriend waiting at the door. I said, “Wow! You have blue hair……but I could care less because I’ve seen your awesome credit reports so you can have any color hair you want.” They were my great tenants for about 3.5 years.

(I asked her what was up with the blue hair, and she said she was just trying to freak out her parents. She also worked in the prop department at the University Theater so it was part of her shtick. The hippy boyfriend was a registered nurse.)

I fell in love with them on paper (good credit, good rental history, good employment, no criminals or sex offenders). We don’t have a hair color requirement! 

There was an earlier time when there was a high vacancy factor in our area, so we had to loosen up our requirements a little in order to fill the units. We had a requirement that if an applicant had a 700+ FICO score we automatically approved them. We just stopped and signed them up.

So, one day I found myself arriving to sign a lease with an unemployed missionary student. I had a slight panic attack when I realized it. (He must have seen the panic in my face, and he came armed with copies of his bank records to assuage my fear.)  He was my great tenant for over two years.

When I was practicing law and doing evictions for my clients, I would tell them over and over that I was “in business” as an attorney because landlords didn’t run credit reports. Once a client called me for an eviction shortly after I had given my little lecture to her for the umteenth time. I asked her if she ran a credit check before approving this tenant. She said, “yes, but I couldn’t figure out how to read it.”

Oye vey!

Once we had a family apply for a house we were renting. They had a child nearly drown a few years earlier. They were uninsured so they had catastrophic medical bills and had to file a bankruptcy so their credit “score” was bad. But we could see from studying their credit reports that they made timely payments on all of their trade lines before the catastrophe and they were making timely payments on all their trade lines after the bankruptcy. So their long-term payment “habits” were more important than their “scores.”

On the other hand, I was holding an open house at one of our houses for rent a while back. When you are there in person, you can find yourself cornered and applicants will show up and try to get you to accept their complicated, convoluted “stories” in lieu of actual qualifications. I heard one of the best, most complicated stories ever from one family. These were very scary people, but they “looked” like a nice normal family. I wanted to believe them. I found out that they had just been evicted and were involved in a complicated lawsuit with their former landlord. From studying their credit and their court case (I subscribe to the court records online), I learned that twice in the past ten years they had bought a house and just before the bank foreclosed they got some investor to buy the home and rent it back to them. Then they quit paying and sued the investor/landlord for ripping them off. I almost started believing their “the investor screwed us” story, until I figured out the pattern — they had done it twice. They probably hadn’t paid rent or a mortgage for years.  Pay attention to habits!

The rule is that you have to fall in love with them on paper before you are allowed to fall in love with them as persons. That rule will keep you out of all kinds of trouble.

Remember that an applicant’s income tells you their “ability” to pay, and their credit report will show you their “willingness” to pay. Do yourself a favor and figure this out before you turn your income-producing asset over to a deadbeat.

The upshot is that if you run credit reports and learn how to read what the prospective tenants’ habits are in regards to keeping their contracts and paying their bills, you will have many hits and few misses when it comes to choosing great tenants!

  • My company has been in the credit reporting business for over 30 years and your comments are dead on to make sure being a landlord is as painless as possible. If your readers need a site that can help them weed out the bad apples from he good, please have them go to our small Landlord program and if they like what they see and they enter the code below they can save 15% off the cost of our service. promo code: TH0021CL


    April 5, 2012

  • I don’t even look at my potential tenants before sending them the application through email. If they complete the application and everything checks out, we might decide to rent to somebody without even seeing their face.

    Heck they could have tattoos all over their face/body for all I care. I don’t think employers should discriminate over stuff like that either. In fact I have hired a contractor with facial tattoos before. I saw his face before I saw his work but I still gave him a chance.

    If everone used the system I used, there would be no need for discrimination lawsuits at all.


    February 15, 2012

  • You get it!


    February 15, 2012

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