Landlords: How to Flag a Scammer in 3 Easy Steps

by Chris on March 12, 2018

Some landlords are lucky. They don’t know what it’s like to open the door of their rental unit and find a sea of hypodermic needles, holes in the walls, broken doors, running water, or strangers living in the property.

A landlord who profits from a tenant despite the fact the landlord never ran a tenant background check may have a false sense of confidence in their “gut” instincts. Pair that with a tenacious professional tenant who is running a scam to get free housing and you have the perfect storm for income loss. The trouble with luck is that it can run out.

From delinquent rent payments to property damage and criminal activity, one bad tenant takes the property out of play, and sends the landlord’s balance sheet into the red.

Bad tenants are desperate to get housing, and they have had ample opportunity to practice their pitches for their next victims. These applicants are slick and talented, and often know more about landlord-tenant laws than landlords. A landlord who failed to screen an applicant may not realize they’ve rented to the tenant from hell until several weeks or months later, when they open door and discover what the scammer left behind.

Regardless of the con — the applicant is wealthy and won’t reveal financials, charming and an obviously good prospect, or victimized and in need of a break — the goal is always the same: to avoid a tenant background check. There are many ways to expose these scams, but sometimes the best strategy is the simplest. Stick with these basics EVERY time, and you are likely to snare a bad actor before it’s too late:

1. Verify the person’s identity with a photo ID. A bad tenant seldom has the resources to fake a photo ID with enough precision to avoid getting caught in the act. Most won’t bother — there is too high a likelihood that the unsuspecting landlord will skip this step. Make note of the address and other identifying information on the ID. That can be cross-checked later. Don’t allow a property tour or give out a rental application before verifying ID.

2. Verify the information in the rental application. Don’t take an applicant’s word for it — check it out. You may find the person no longer works for the employer listed — or never worked there to begin with. If an applicant is lying, it’s because they have no verifiable income to pay rent, or because they have a bad rental history. It’s as simple as that.

3. Run tenant screening reports. Credit reports, eviction reports, and criminal background checks are instrumental in flagging an applicant who is not telling the truth. These reports cannot be altered or explained away by a scammer. Bad patterns do catch up with the professional tenant eventually, and the more information accessed, the better the chances of finding the inconsistency that unravels the scam. That’s a lot safer than relying on good luck.

This post is provided by Tenant Verification Service, Inc., helping landlords reduce the risks of renting with fraud prevention tools that include Tenant Screening, Tenant Background Checks, (U.S. and Canada), as well as Criminal Background Checks, and Eviction Reports (U.S. only).

Click Here to Receive Landlord Credit Reports.

Disclaimer: The information provided in this post is not intended to be construed as legal advice, nor should it be considered a substitute for obtaining individual legal counsel or consulting your local, state, federal or provincial tenancy laws.

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