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.
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).
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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.