Tenant screening? Don't miss these 5 red flags
Photo: Pixabay/kaboompics.

According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, there are 4.62 million rented dwellings in Australia. Though most renters pay on time and will give you a hassle-free tenancy, avoiding risk in the tenant selection process is important.

If you’ve just invested in your first property, you might feel like you’ve hooked up a cash pump – all you have to do now is wait for the dollars to roll in.

If, however, you get a bad tenant, it can hurt your back pocket and sanity. Look for these five tenant red flags in your next screening to avoid a big headache.

They have a thin employment history

If a would-be tenant has a string of short-term jobs – perhaps three months or so – or has huge gaps in their employment history, this could be a bad sign.

A good tenant should have a stable job with a steady income. If they can’t hold down a job, they likely cannot afford to pay rent.

They don’t show you proof of income

If you’re trying to check a tenant’s income and come up with nothing, this could be a sign of a bad tenant. In the application process, a tenant should come up with at least three months’ worth of payslips or bank statements.

As Savvy CEO Bill Tsouvalas said, “Continuity of income is crucial for a lender to approach a home loan, and it’s just as important for landlords to take the same approach.”

“A renter and landlord relationship is a business relationship; it requires honesty,” Bill said. “There is something to be said about the saying ‘Trust, but verify’ in this kind of transaction.”

They negotiate the bond or ask to pay after they’ve moved in

A tenant trying to escape paying the bond – or trying to haggle for it – is not only a sign they cannot afford it, but against the law.

A rental bond is a security to ensure the tenant follows the rental agreement. At the end of the lease, if all is well, the tenant will get their bond back.

Rules for the application and return of bonds are spelled out in the Residential Tenancies Act 1997. An agent or landlord must lodge the bond with a tenancy bond authority in all states. It makes them look bad and puts you at odds with the law.

They don’t have independent references

Tenants who put down references on their application with the same last name could be trying to hide something.

Listing friends or relatives as residential references won’t give you an insight into what they’re like as tenants.

Tenants with rental history who can’t get a reference from a previous agent or a landlord may not be worth your time.

The numbers don’t add up

According to the ABS, the spread of rent-to-income ratios should be between 25% and 38%. If your would-be tenant would be paying more than 30% of their income in rent, the numbers probably don’t support their application, even if they have been forthright with everything else.


Savvy is an online financial services business that provides home loans, car loans, truck loans, marine finance, equipment finance and insurance services. Savvy considers itself the online hub for finance savvy customers and services clients Australia-wide. The company was founded in 2010 and is based out of Norwood in South Australia. Savvy says its vision is to bring Australians the best automotive, home finance and insurance solutions from all over the market using the latest technology.


  1. I’m a tenant and exempted from work due to my illnesses/disability and I get government income, I pay my rent prior to the due date. So I obviously disagree with the above advice to landlords saying “If a tenant can’t hold down a job for more than three months they can’t afford rent”. Every tenant has different circumstances.

    • Hi Rachel, I’m a home owner and a landlord and I agree with you 100%. It’s not fair to lump everyone who doesn’t work into the same basket. People should be considered for rental eligibility on a case by case basis, anything else could not only see the landlord /rental agent in a legal battle ( citing such things as racism, sexism etc) but it just isn’t fair or right!

  2. I am on disability pension and have lived in my house for 27 years and my rent and water and light bill are in advance. When I get my light bill it’s always $200-$300 in credit . My rent is $800 in credit and water $600 in credit . So no you can’t tarnish everyone on a government payment with the same brush .