Simple Mistake Can Derail Tenancy

by Chris on March 31, 2014

A solid rental application and lease agreement lead the way for a successful tenancy. Unfortunately, these tools are only as good as the information provided by the tenant.

That’s why it’s so important to verify the information received, starting with the very first question — the tenant’s name.

tenant screeningWhat seems like the easiest question to answer is also the easiest to fake.

Without a tenant’s complete and accurate name, a landlord will face a number of problems, including difficulty running an accurate tenant background check. That greatly increases the possibility of renting to a problem tenant. It also will be difficult to enforce the lease, win an eviction, or collect a judgement for past due rent or damage to the property.

A tight rental market tends to bring out the worst in tenants who have a spotty rental history, bad credit or other problems.  Desperate to find housing they can afford and facing multiple rejections, these applicants may bend the truth.

Landlords can minimize the risk of income loss by taking a few simple precautions:

When first contacted, ask for the applicant’s name, and the name of any proposed co-tenants. Confirm the proper spelling at that time.  Compare your notes with the ID when you meet the applicant. That way, you may catch an applicant who is using a fake name.

It’s also helpful to jot down the phone number from caller ID after an applicant first calls and compare that to info they later provide in the rental application.

Meet with the applicant prior to the property tour, and view a photo ID. Unless your local law prohibits it, make a copy of the ID. Take a moment to review the ID, to determine if the name is the same as provided on the phone, if the photo appears to be the same person, and if the birthdate or other information realistically matches that person’s profile.

The rental application must have enough room for the full names of all applicants. Use separate lines to encourage the applicants to include first, middle and last names. Ask if the tenant may have obtained credit using another name.

Keep an eye out for alias names not revealed on the rental application, along with other discrepancies, on tenant background reports, including the credit report. Make sure the tenant can explain the issue.

Fill in the tenant’s full name on the lease agreement, and double-check the tenant’s signature to make sure it matches.

A little extra effort in verifying the applicant’s identity and keeping the name consistent throughout the leasing documents can save thousands in lost rent and legal fees.

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 }

Al Kemp April 2, 2014 at 7:52 am

Timing is everything: If you are comfortable with the applicant after a phone interview and a suite showing interview (yes interview during the showing by asking questions to which you want answers), then fill out the application form with the applicant (don’t give the blank form to be taken away). After you have the basic information, then ask to see photo ID. If the applicant has given false information about name, birth date, address(es), etc. it’s too late to change his/her answer!

Marv April 7, 2014 at 1:03 pm

Al is correct…ensuring that you have an honest tenant, a credit worthy tenant and one who pays rent on time each month, will minimize risk of rental income loss.

Taking the steps as noted above and doing what Al recommends sends a strong message to the tenant. ” I am a professional landlord, I play by the rules and I expect you to do the same”. What’s that saying about first impressions? Well…make it a good one. It might be a little awkward at first to do what is recommended, because you are a very nice and trusting person and don’t want to be rude, but once you have practiced this modus operandi two or three times, it will become 2nd nature. Nice and trusting do not minimize risk of rental income loss, professionalism and due diligence minimize risk of income loss. Other comments would be appreciated.

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