A half-dozen landlords in British Columbia are out rent payments to a professional tenant who appears to have lived virtually rent-free for over three years.
According to a news report, one landlord admits she fell for the tenant’s sob story. He asked for help for himself and his two young children. Now she’s out $20,000.
A previous landlord told reporters that when he had to evict the same tenant, the bailiff in the case knew the tenant by name — because he’d been evicted before.
The case highlights the difficulties Canadian landlords face where, as a result of privacy concerns, the eviction tribunals refuse to release names of tenants who have undergone eviction proceedings.
Some landlords feel powerless.
Fortunately, professional scammers like this tenant are rare, and landlords are not without recourse in screening out bad tenants. It helps to know the danger signs:
Rental applicants who approach a landlord with a sad story should not be taken at face value. In this case, the tenant placed an ad asking for help for his family. Scammers know this strategy works. Using children is a common prop — like the man who brought his young “son” with him to tour a home which his accomplices later turned into a grow op.
Applicants with a bad history will target landlords who may avoid running tenant screening reports. They often will look for a landlord who appears to have little experience, or someone who appears compassionate. Then, these scammers will use their charm to talk the landlord out of running screening reports which would reveal the individual’s dubious history.
Those who’ve been evicted or failed to pay rent will attempt to conceal or change their written history to avoid being rejected for subsequent rental housing. To avoid this, have each adult applicant complete a rental application. Look for blanks, incomplete or illegible information, or inconsistencies.
From there, verify the information with a healthy level of skepticism.
Run tenant screening reports on any applicant under serious consideration. In addition to flagging a lack of financial responsibility, a credit report can reveal a number of inconsistencies — alias names, lack of employment verification, previous addresses and so on — that don’t match the rental application. These red flags alert a landlord to dig deeper with this applicant.
Request and review related documentation that the applicant submits — bank records, pay stubs, tax records — to uncover inconsistencies with the rental application or the credit report.
Speak with previous landlords to avoid being the next in a series of financial casualties. Don’t hesitate to get “chatty” with the previous landlord and ask property-related questions. If the person is a poser, they may get caught up in their fraud.
In the recent B.C. case, it took the current landlord four months to obtain an eviction order, despite the fact that the tenant never paid rent and had been evicted in the past. The tenant had more experience with the legal system than the landlord and knew how to win delays while living rent-free. Landlords facing such a situation may be best served by hiring legal counsel to handle the eviction and minimize the resulting financial losses.
While defending the legal system that processes evictions, a spokesperson for B.C.’s Housing Ministry told reporters that landlords should exercise due diligence in screening tenants.
Once a problem tenant is in the property, eviction delays and costs will certainly lead to income loss for the landlord. When it comes to screening tenants, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.
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.