As a landlord, you may think you’ve seen more tricks than at a dog and pony show. Forgery and fraud in rental applications may not be publicized, but it frequently happens, particularly with “mom and pop” landlords as scammers think they are the easiest to manipulate.
Those applicants who perpetrate fraud will often seek multi-family housing and typically have a bad credit score. Sometimes they have a pet or two and “forget” to inform the landlord. When people need a home, they’re almost in survival instinct mode. They may try anything to get that need met. So stay ahead of the game by following these tips.
- Ask for a photo ID and never accept a photocopy or fax of one as these can be easily faked. Ascertain the applicant is the person on the ID and not just someone with similar characteristics. Ask if the address on the ID is where they currently live, and if not, why?
- Make certain to invest in a tenant background check, specifically one that searches for criminal records. This screening reveals past problems and hints of potential future ones, such as previous fake addresses or offenses which may violate safety. A decision not to get a background check could be much costlier in the long run as it is more difficult to evict a tenant once they are in residence.
- Secure a tenant credit check. A low credit score could indicate the potential of bad pay or no pay. Worse, the tenant could skip out after leaving damages or absconding with appliances and light fixtures.
- Beware of tenants who respond to rental advertising on free sites or bulletin boards. Sure, many people respond legitimately to these ads, but it benefits you to be cautious.
- Know your rights as a landlord and the rights of potential tenants. Having this information at hand helps to verify you are within the law to refuse a tenant’s application without discrimination.
- Ask about pets. Clarify that your policy covers the inclusion of a pet from the time of move-in to vacating the lease.
- Observe the person completing the application. Do they use a “cheat sheet” or phone someone to ask for help? When finished, look over the application and ask questions to confirm the data.
- Verify past personal references. Sometimes renters use two separate phones in an attempt to respond as their own “reference,” or ask a friend to vouch for them. Landlords can place an unexpected call to the numbers to catch the fraudulent renter off-guard.
- Do a computer search of the potential renter’s name and see what comes up.
- Request pay stubs to verify income. Most companies, even the government, use electronic records. Be wary of anything that looks like a fake template. Look for typos, font changes, misaligned information, mistakes in the math, or unlikely sequencing of check numbers.
- Charge an application fee or require a deposit that can be applied to the rent. This discourages those who forge or proffer fraudulent documents.
- Check with your local police frauds department to see if they have a list of tips to share with landlords.
Perhaps the best way of all to determine a legitimate renter is to outsource your potential tenant’s background screening to DataScreening.com. Besides in-depth information that is legal and above board, you save hours of time by obtaining the credit and background checks in a single-sourced, convenient report.
DataScreening is a Certified Women’s Business Enterprise that has offered business-to-business employment and tenant screenings to human resource professionals and business owners, including staffing companies, for two decades. Among other organizations, they are members of the New Jersey Staffing Alliance, the Society for Human Resource Management and the National Association of Professional Background Screeners. How may we help you today?