Stop tenant fraud, and you’ll prevent the resulting income loss. A little detective work early in the tenant screening process can expose a would-be nightmare tenant. But in the rush to fill a vacancy, some landlords miss important opportunities to screen tenants:
Tenant Screening on the Phone
The first phone call with the applicant in response to the rental ad is the time the applicant is most vulnerable. They may not be expecting to answer questions other than when they can meet for a property tour.
Professional tenants are hoping to score a face-to-face meeting at the property where they can spin their story and get out of a tenant background check.
But when confronted with questions about qualifications at this stage, the fraudulent applicant has to scramble to make up a story, one they can remember, and one that will be verified. Now, they are locked into their answers. They can’t change the story later without exposing the earlier lie.
If the person is lying about income, rental history, number of occupants, why they are moving, or other qualifying factors, those lies will be exposed at the property tour or in the rental application — because the landlord was paying attention.
Screening Tenants at the Property Tour
The property tour is an excellent opportunity to screen the applicant. That’s why it’s important to be there and to be listening.
It’s surprising how many bad applicants can’t remember what lies they told to which landlord. Simple questions designed to confirm what the person said during the first phone call can throw a person off their game — if they are not telling the truth.
One common example is an applicant changing the employer. Some scammers will pick a nearby business and claim to work there, changing the story from one application to the next. Another possible red flag is driving a car that isn’t registered where the tenant claimed to live.
It is imperative that applicants present a photo ID before taking the tour. A landlord must verify an applicant’s identity to run an accurate tenant background check. This also exposes would-be scammers who made up a name on the initial call. The person touring the property may not be the same person who was on the phone call, or the ID may show the applicant lives at a different address than what they provided earlier.
The applicant may bring along other proposed occupants who were not revealed in the initial phone call, another inconsistency. Also, watch the person’s demeanor. Do they take any interest in the space — as though they are planning to stick around? Do they tell a sob story, or ask to rent on the spot without a background check?
When screening tenants, any one factor alone may not be sufficient to reject the applicant, but these inconsistencies cast suspicion. The sooner these red flags crop up, the better the chances of avoiding a problem tenant.
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.