Crime, Your Bottom Line and Peace of Mind

by Robert L. Cain  April 1, 2000

Not too long ago a landlord asked me why he should care if a tenant were a criminal or selling drugs, as long as he paid his rent. I thought he was kidding; but after ferocious cross examination, found he was deadly serious. And that was the way his finances were going to be soon, if he didn’t start to care—deadly serious.

For some landlords the rent is the only thing that matters. As long as the rent comes in, they figure, who cares what the personal habits of your tenants are? Some people consider it unsophisticated to make value judgments about the habits and proclivities of their tenants.

I must be unsophisticated. I believe we need to make value judgments about the activities of our tenants that will make the difference between a successful landlording business and a total, frustrating debacle.

For example, a few years ago I got a desperate call from a subscriber. One of her tenants had just called and said she had to go to jail for four months, didn’t want to lose her apartment, and wanted her friend to move in (with her German shepherd and without a rental application or reference check) during the time the tenant was a guest of the county.

Of course I advised the landlord to require a complete check on the substitute tenant and forbid the dog. Chances are the new tenant couldn’t pass muster, so the landlord would have a vacancy without notice and the job of dealing with abandoned personal property.

So much for it being none of our business what the tenant does as long as the rent gets paid. Everything that affects our ability to do business is our concern. It is good business to be ever vigilant about the type of people who move into our rental properties. The financial and psychological benefits of keeping illegal activity and bad guys out of our rentals are enormous. Here are a few of them:

  • A stable, more satisfied tenant base. Good tenants hate bad tenants. Good tenants pay the rent, have jobs, are good neighbors and law-abiding. They move out when bad tenants move in. They stay longer when they perceive that we’re intent on keeping our properties great places to live. They also tell their friends—other good tenants.
  • Lower maintenance and repair costs.
  • Increased property values. Properties without criminals, that are well maintained, fetch higher rents, and thus have a higher market value.
  • Improved personal safety for tenants, owners and property managers.
  • Peace of mind that comes from spending more time on routine management and less time on crisis control.
  • Criminals create problems for themselves and other people. Let them create problems for someone besides you and somewhere besides your properties.

Allowing criminals to live in or, even worse, criminal activity to take place in your rental properties just makes bad business sense. Ensuring that law-abiding tenants live in your properties, and caring about what occurs in them will make a world of difference in your bottom line and peace of mind.                                                                           

Copyright 2000  Cain Publications, Inc. Reprinted  by permission. Robert Cain is a nationally-recognized speaker and writer on property management and real estate issues. For a free sample copy of the Rental Property Reporter, call 800-654-5456 or visit