Why Your Next Landlord Might Be Afraid of You

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I have a confession to make: I’m a landlord. I have a one-bedroom apartment on the top floor of the house where my wife, kids, cat and I live in the Bronx. My current tenant is my younger brother. When he moves out, which I hope is never, I’ll be pretty careful about who I replace him with. But I hope I won’t be so careful as to rely on the list posted last week by the blog PMGuardian.com, which casts itself on Twitter as “Helping Property Managers Get Better Tenants Faster.”

In its list “99 Signs You Shouldn’t Rent to That Tenant,” PMGuardian has gathered the obvious (No. 8 “They’re drunk or tipsy” or No. 81 “They openly try to intimidate you”) and the hilarious (No. 86 is “They need a place for their band to practice”) along with the interesting: Explaining reason No. 69, “They’re blatantly homophobic,” the site explains: “The problem with homophobes is the thought of seeing gay people happy … tends to fill them with seething rage. Even if you don’t have any gay or lesbian tenants, is there any way a person that miserable won’t cause problems in the long run? Unlikely.”

Some of the cautions are contradictory: Tenants who are too nitpicky are no good, but so are those who are too nonchalant. People who are still looking for a job are dodgy, but you also want to avoid employed people who commute a long way to work. There’s just no pleasing some landlords.

And yes, a few of the “warning signs” are simply offensive: Rejecting a tenant because “they stink” (“If a person can’t be bothered to bath [sic], they certainly won’t be bothered over the upkeep and cleanliness of the rental.”) is downright mean. Passing up someone because “They need to see if they can get the money together” suggests that anyone who doesn’t have three-months’ rent (first, last and security) in their pocket at that particular moment is a deadbeat. By that standard, readers, raise your hand if you aren’t a deadbeat.

But the thickest thread running through the list is suspicion. If someone asks about smoke detectors, it’s not that they’re concerned about fire safety, it’s that they’re secret cigarette smokers. If a prospective tenant needs the apartment immediately, it’s a sign they’re trying to scam you. If they offer to do repairs or maintenance in exchange for rent, it’s not that they’re thrifty or handy with a hammer, but that they’re grifters.

I doubt this list reflects how all property managers and landlords think about tenants. But it’s a fascinating and, at a few points, frightening look at how some people look at you when you come to look at their apartment. Before your next visit to a prospective pad, give it a read—and slap on some Speed Stick.

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