When buying real estate, the occupancy is really one of two things: there are people in it or the property is empty. If the property is empty you know in advance that it will take a month or maybe more to get the property in shape for new tenants being a landlordthen you have to market the unit.

For properties that really don’t need much, if any work and already have tenants, you automatically have cash flow once the deal closes. But you don’t know much about the tenants, do you? Are they nice? Do they take care of the property?

When you inherit tenants you also inherit their personalities. And while your property acquisition might have been the deal of the century, have you thought that the seller just wanted to dump the place and the deadbeat tenants occupying it?

That’s always something to consider. Tenant-rights can make it extremely difficult to evict a tenant, even when rent is severely past due. It’s no easy task, and in an extreme example sometimes the sheriff has to be called to escort the miscreants from the property.

To protect yourself from inheriting bad tenants, pay close attention to the property’s physical condition when you inspect the property. And while you can schedule an appointment with the tenants, try making an unannounced visit just before the inspection is held. Is the property in good shape? Well cared for? Or does the home look more like “Thing One and Thing Two” live there? Tenants who are responsible with the home’s condition are also likely to be responsible paying the rent on time.

And speaking of paying the rent, don’t make an offer on a property until you are provided evidence the tenants are paying on time. Have the landlord provide you with a payment history and a simple, “Do they always pay on time?” question can help as well as knowing when the current lease expires as well as any “month to month” clause.

It’s a good thing to buy an investment property that cash flows right out of the gate. But getting bad tenants can turn a dream investment into a nightmare.