Can Friend Get Into Trouble for Posing As Prior Landlord?

by Chris on December 20, 2010

Q: Is it possible for the person who is pretending to be the landlord of someone who is trying to get an apartment to get into trouble with the law? – TVS Landlord Blog Reader

Yes, posing as someone you are not is dishonest.  If you do it so that someone else will believe you and rely on the information you tell them – a landlord for instance, then pretending can rise to the level of fraud.

Fraud may be a crime depending on where you live, but it is more often cause for a civil lawsuit.  For example, if the tenant damages the property or won’t pay the rent, the landlord may be able to look to the imposter ‘landlord’ for creating the situation.

If you are the person who is being asked to pretend to be the landlord, it’s probably because your friend does not have a good track record with landlords.

This person should consider the fact that by asking you to do this sort of thing they are putting you at risk for potential liability. 

Participating in this deceit will not help in the long run if the tenant repeats his or her  bad habits.  It’s better to pressure a friend into being a better tenant. Some people just don’t know any better. For examples of how a responsible tenant is supposed to behave, your friend could go to www.tenantsinfo.com.  And good for you for asking if this is wrong!

For landlords conducting tenant screening, the best course of action is to always assume the previous landlord reference could be an imposter, and take steps to independently corroborate the information, by:

looking up the landlord’s name and address in a property owners’ directory like a property tax assessor’s list if available, or a reverse phone directory (plug in the address, and see which name comes up),

asking the person to call you back so that you can verify the phone number on Caller ID, or

coming up with some questions that only a landlord might know, but would stump an imposter – which landlord associations do they belong to, how long has the property been a rental, how many units are there, for example. 

Another helpful tip is to collect previous addresses on your rental application to cross-check against other tenant screening reports, like the credit report.

A previous landlord reference is a powerful tool in conducting tenant background checks, but as we can see here, it is a process that easily can be corrupted if the tenant finds someone who is willing to play along.  Bad tenants need a place to live, too, and if the only way to make that happen is to lie, they will do it. But landlords can outsmart these fraudsters, and avoid becoming the next victim.

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 in 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.

{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Alberta Eviction December 23, 2010 at 11:40 am

Another handy tip when confirming the contact number is an actual landlord is to start the conversation by inquiring about the rental property they have and whether it is available.

If they are a friend posing as a landlord you can often catch them off guard and they will automatically answer they don;t have any properties for rent. This can quickly shorten your screening process for this particular tenant and help you about going through an eviction process later.

Bert Dwayne Maxwell July 24, 2018 at 8:02 pm

Can a person use someone’s surname and act as a landlord for someone to use as a reference to obtain a rental property… the person who is trying to obtain a rental property has the same last name as the person who is posing as a landlord….hence why the person changed her last name to her spouse’s last name so that the other person can geta rental property…..is it legal or illegal. ?

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