Avoiding Common Tenant Scams: What Can Landlords Do?

The tenant selection process is the most important work a landlord has to do, second only to maintaining a safe and habitable property. Selecting the right tenants means steady, on-time rental income, the potential for better care of the property, and other important benefits. A rushed process can mean confronting all kinds of headaches later—from non-payment to property damage and even lengthy eviction processes.

While landlords zero in on employment history, income, and other aspects, one must remember an important fact: not everyone will honestly represent themselves. Indeed, the growing threat of rental scams means more property managers and owners have been defrauded by bad actors in recent years. What are some of the most common scams that landlords might encounter, and what can you do to stay vigilant against them? 

Fake Identities

Identity theft isn't just for stealing credit cards—people may also attempt to use false identities to obtain rental properties. Basic screening measures, such as requiring a copy of the individual's official identification, can give you a basis for investigation. Searching for aliases, verifying the validity of identification, and similar steps can help you confirm that an applicant is who they say they are. Verifying identity should be your first step in the real estate background check process.

Forged Pay Stubs 

Applicants may attempt to doctor pay stubs to make it appear they make more money than they do, or they may falsify other records related to employment. Conducting employment verification by requiring contact information and insisting on multiple forms of proof of income is a simple way to verify these numbers.

Faked Rental Histories

Ask for landlord contact information to conduct reference verification checks and to confirm that an individual lived where they say they did—and that they weren't destructive tenants. Insist on additional verification forms when necessary, such as an official bill from a utility or internet provider showing the applicant's name at their last address.

Self-Supplied Credit Reports

Be wary if an applicant shows up with a copy of their credit report ready to share—there's no way of knowing if what they hand over is accurate or recent. Instead, always turn to an independent credit verification so you can assess an applicant's financial suitability with facts you know are authentic.

Lying About Criminal Backgrounds

Under the federal Fair Housing Act, it's illegal to deny applicants with a criminal record automatically, but landlords can still consider criminal history as an element of tenant suitability. Check local laws to determine when and how you can inquire into this information—it can vary significantly from state to state. A thorough criminal background check can reveal when an applicant hasn't been entirely forthcoming about a checkered past.

Equipping Yourself for Effective Tenant Background Screening

With a thorough screening procedure—and a sense of what should raise your suspicions—you can better ensure that the tenants you select will be reliable residents for the duration of their lease. Though scams may be on the rise, you can protect yourself and others with solutions from backgroundchecks.com.

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Michael Klazema

About Michael Klazema The author

Michael Klazema is the lead author and editor for Dallas-based backgroundchecks.com with a focus on human resource and employment screening developments

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