It’s heartbreaking to hear landlord horror stories, especially when they start with “I thought I found the perfect tenant,” or “I was trying to do something nice.”
Problem tenants are the exception to the rule, but they are out there, and they tend to repeat the pattern. Once they get evicted, they go on to rent another property. Make sure it isn’t yours by watching for these red flags:
The prospective renter’s name on their ID is different than the name they gave over the phone.
Be cautious when the person who shows up for a tour apparently is not the same person who provided prequalifying information over the phone. Either the landlord switched up applicants and has the wrong info, or the applicant is attempting to pull a scam. Either way, the landlord does not have the information needed to verify the person’s identity — or qualifications.
There are contradictions from the prequalifying phone call.
One reason for prequalifying applicants before a property tour is to obtain a baseline of information to compare to the rental application. Deviations from that initial story point to a scammer. Examples include an applicant who said he wants to rent with only one occupant but brings other people along for the tour. Watch for an applicant who suddenly claims to be from somewhere different or claims to work somewhere else. This applicant may be providing false information.
The renter shares a rash of bad luck.
This is one of the most common scams. The prospect brings up a sad story, and then watches for the landlord’s response. If the landlord appears sympathetic, the stories keep coming. One nightmare tenant allegedly had cancer, then her kid had cancer, too, and then the family dog just got sick and died. Of course, that’s why the tenant couldn’t pay first and last month rent in a lump sum. The kind landlord made a concession. The tenant never paid any rent, and ultimately was evicted. In a similar case, the ‘disadvantaged’ tenant not only failed to pay rent, she posed as the landlord, sublet the house to someone else, and kept all the cash.
The difference between a hard-luck story and a scam is that the scammer is attempting to bargain for some concession. If an applicant is sharing that much information with a landlord who they just met, it’s suspicious, and possibly not true.
The prospect shows a heightened sense of urgency about moving in — immediately.
A little enthusiasm is great, but a scammer is desperate and willing to offer anything necessary — cash on the spot, higher rent, to fix up the property — to get into a tenancy agreement without a tenant background check. This is the trademark of a tenant in the process of eviction, or someone with a bad rental history.
The tenant trashes the current landlord.
A nightmare tenant needs to compensate for the lack of landlord references. One way to do that is to cast doubt on the current landlord’s credibility. If the tenant is making it personal or skewering the last landlord, you can expect to be next.
There is a common thread that runs through all these examples. The tenant is attempting to manipulate what they see as the landlord’s weaknesses. That might include inexperience, compassion for other people, or a laid-back attitude — all viewed by scammers as openings that are easy to exploit.
You don’t need to be harsh with applicants to avoid nightmare tenants. All you need to do is say no: “No, you cannot pay the rent in installments.” “No, you cannot move in today.” “No, I will not skip a tenant background check.”
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.