How Tenant Scammed 7 Landlords

by Chris on February 2, 2015

An Ontario tenant who was evicted at least seven times for failure to pay rent and accused of lying on rental applications has been convicted of criminal fraud.

The case came to light only after investigative reporters with the Toronto Star uncovered the extensive trail of landlords who had been victimized by the same tenant. The news coverage highlighted how difficult it is for landlords to fully investigate an applicant’s rental history, primarily because of a lack of access to prior eviction records.

tenant screeningPrivacy laws protect tenants from exposure, even if they have been evicted multiple times for the same actions.

The ease by which problem tenants can game the eviction process prompted a Superior Court Judge in Ontario to publicly decry the system that allows these tenants to take advantage of one landlord after another, living rent-free while enjoying continuing delays.

In the fraud case, the 50-year-old tenant was dubbed a “seasoned and practiced liar” by the judge, according to a news report covering the trial.

Her landlords described the woman as charming and seemingly responsible throughout the application process.

How to Scam a Landlord

The tenant was convicted of knowingly deceiving at least two of the landlords by providing false information in the rental application process in order to secure the landlords’ cooperation. The rental application, as well as follow-up emails, contained false information about the woman’s employment and previous addresses. She appears to have identified a relative as an employment reference, and to have provided landlords with (false) information about her husband’s income.

Several witnesses were available to contradict the information the woman had provided to landlords.

The tenant acknowledged the false statements, but claimed she did not know that it was against the law to include this information in a rental application, according to the news report.

Once the tenant gained access to a rental home, she would complain about the condition of the property. Then, she would use those complaints as justification for withholding rent. She would raise these claims when faced with an eviction, and frequently delayed the multiple evictions through the appeal process.

In January, she was convicted of criminal fraud and false pretense, and will be sentenced in March.

How to Spot a Fraudulent Rental Application

While the threat of a fraud conviction may provide solace to landlords who find themselves victimized by professional tenants, the best strategy is to avoid the income loss. Landlords must fully realize the disadvantage they face when screening tenants without access to prior eviction or even some criminal records that would instantly reveal a scammer.

Despite this disadvantage, landlords can rise to the occasion and win the fraud game:

Professional Tenants Avoid Professional Landlords

Set the stage that you are a professional landlord and rental property manager, and you will repel bad tenants. Start with the rental ad. Include a tenant background check requirement. Prequalify renters over the phone. Ask for ID and meet with prospects briefly before showing them around the property. This eliminates the risk of being talked into renting on the spot, a hallmark of bad tenants.

Don’t take shortcuts with the tenant screening requirements or make other concessions right away. Bad tenants may be testing to see what they can get away with.

Treat the Rental Application Like a Legal Document

Include a warning at the head of the rental application that the information will be verified, and that false information is considered fraud and grounds for a subsequent eviction. Explain that omissions are the same as false statements.

Make sure that each adult occupant completes a separate rental application.

Include a declaration at the bottom of the rental application that verifies the information is true and complete, and provides permission to conduct a tenant background check.

Make sure the tenant provides a valid signature beneath the declaration.

Treat the Rental Application with Some Skepticism

Take the tenant’s perceived charm out of the equation. Read the application and see if it makes sense given what information you have been provided by the applicant. This is another reason why it is best to prequalify an applicant over the phone — before they’ve had a chance to concoct a story.

Actually verify the information in the application, especially the employment reference.

Run a tenant credit report to flag inconsistencies, like inconsistent employment information or undisclosed addresses.

Always speak with current and former landlords, taking steps to ensure you are speaking about the same 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).

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.

{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

Carmen January 3, 2016 at 12:32 pm

I am a landlord that has been taken advantage of many times. It is shocking how much there is online about landlords taking advantage of tenants while the truth is that the laws that provide and allow for tenants taking advantage of landlords is also shocking, and attributed to the endangerment of my livelihood. Where can landlords post a more realistic view of what is going on and fight for the law defending both sides equally in the name of justice for all parties instead of so heavily lying on one side or the other?

Carmen

melanie January 30, 2016 at 8:28 pm

Assuming you are an honest landlord, there will always be scumbags to work the system. My most recent experience with a Landlord in Houston can trump anything you can come up with. I never ever imagined this could happen to me. I was offered $99 move in and 1/2 off first month’s rent. Once I signed the lease, they told me to go fuck myself and if I did not pay the full month’s rent and move in they would take me to court. This was just the beginning. When I discovered they were profiting $10000 a month on overcharging for water utilities and $7000 a month for over charging tenants for gas utilities, they tried to bribe me. When I refused to be bribed, they terminated my lease. So now I’m spending 40 hours a week in legal proceedings with the Texas Utility Commission and the District attorney on the fraud charges. What a scumbag. When other tenants complained about paying $24 a month for gas utilities when their apartment was all electric, they were also evicted. This complex is located in an upscale suburb of Houston. Tenant are so afraid of being evicted they hide, won’t congregate and tiptoe around like prisoners. Its frightening to know that landlords are allowed to get away with fraud, theft, threats and scare tactics. I’m one of those stupid people that pay my rent on time and keep the place cleaner than I found it. The way I was repaid by the landlord makes we want to go out and stiff a few as payback. But no, I will use the court system and thus far its paying off.

Juan gonzales March 22, 2018 at 10:36 am

I’m landlord myself, personally I’ve been taken advantage of in many ways. such as doing stuff against my policy. while i cant kick them out cause of that bullshit human rights, specifically, Forced evictions. I myself have used this tactic many times to get rid of scumbags.

Stephanie May 21, 2018 at 6:05 pm

Tenant came to rent house but did not pass inspection twice by the city. Tenant say oh my boyfriend can do the work. But each time city came they added more to list. Guest what the boyfriend stated we going to report the inspector. Well he went to his best friend at the city and the inspector states he got in trouble and it pass next time. Paid boyfriend in his name note the bill is double in size.. Paid boyfriend in maiden name not name on company bill given to me. Girl friend did not pay all of deposit. Moved in now boyfriend trying to put lean on house then said just put on girl friend bill and she will not have to pay rent. So that is another scam. Sent a form tot tenant to move due to not working and is behind on rent. Signed contract but only paid small amount. They call the city back out after I told her she needs to move and I come up with violations again. Be very careful if smell wrong when first start get rid of it. Now I am battling to get her out of house and to be able to still rent my house out.

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