With an expected wave of eviction filings for nonpayment of rent to begin in January, rental applicants are going to begin to line up for vacancies.
Some paid rent and simply are relocating. Others didn’t pay anything and they’re leaving before the current landlord has a chance to get an eviction order. Can you spot the difference?
What landlords would consider tenant fraud a tenant may view as survival. But when it comes to screening tenants, landlords large and small can expect an uptick in misinformation, exaggeration, and avoidance going into 2021.
Tenant Fraud: Are You a Target?
Small landlords need to be particularly vigilant. Financial losses from the pandemic already have taken a toll. Many of these landlords cannot afford to spend several more income-free months waiting to evict the next tenant.
But small landlords are the most vulnerable for another reason: bad tenants target them. There is a perception that small landlords are not as savvy about tenant screening and property management and will be lax when it comes to tenant fraud.
In fact, tenants openly discuss strategies for targeting small landlords on social media. Finding these landlords is as easy as looking at the free classified ads, because small landlords typically don’t pay for advertising. From there, tenants will test the waters by offering to move in right away or promise to pay in cash – distractions designed to dodge a tenant background check.
The way to avoid becoming a target is to behave like professional property managers: keep the rental ad polished and focused on the property and tenant qualifications, prequalify applicants before showing the property, and insist on a tenant background check including current and previous landlord references before offering a lease.
Tenant Retention Pays Off
Larger property managers can run into trouble in 2021 by chasing away their best tenants with rent increases or nickel and dime fees designed to recoup some 2020 losses. This is especially risky where tenants cannot enjoy the amenities they already are paying for.
One such landlord giant has floated the idea of charging $8.00 a month for guest parking that has been available for free. It’s only $8.00 a month — but that’s enough to have social media buzzing with disgruntled tenants threatening to move elsewhere when their leases expire.
Filling those vacancies then becomes challenging when competitors are offering rent incentives rather than increased costs. Hiding fees with ads that tout lower than market rent until the applicant reads the fine print will lead to longer vacancies — something bad tenants watch for because they can capitalize on the landlord’s eagerness to fill a unit.
Get the Facts
Most tenants have paid rent through the pandemic, but few have avoided the hardships. It’s okay that a rental applicant was impacted. The issue is how they deal with it.
Tenants who are willing to talk about any past or current issues are worth considering. For instance, a tenant who realizes they need to downsize to a less expensive unit is showing financial responsibility.
What landlords need to avoid is the tenant who chooses instead to lie about their circumstances by hiding a previous address, exaggerating income, or faking references.
When someone is not being forthcoming, the only way to find out the truth is with tenant screening. Don’t make any exceptions, and you won’t be disappointed to discover your seemingly perfect tenant is a perfect nightmare.
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).
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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.