Not everyone follows the golden rule of honesty in their rent application. For some reason or another, some renters lie in their applications. Although we choose to believe they lie to get a place to live successfully, you can’t overlook the risks inherent in fake applications.
As property managers, we screen landlord references every day. While some are beautifully drafted as a testament to a tenant’s character, others are plain lies written by a fake landlord. It’s difficult to distinguish between a fake and an authentic landlord reference, but it’s not impossible.
You can tell fact from fiction with this comprehensive guide on catching imposters.
Tenant Screening: An Exam for Renters
One of the important steps in tenant screening is to peruse through landlord reference. Calling your prospective tenant’s previous landlord is a standard screening practice. The purpose is simple: to learn whether the applicant is reliable.
Landlord reference shows if the tenant pays timely rents, follows lease agreement, complies with other provisions and doesn’t damage property. Your tenant screening will include questions about the previous landlord’s contact detail to determine their relationship. But you can’t pinpoint the nature of their relationship if they’re lying in their application.
Chances are, some applicants might have had bitter relationships due to their negligence. As a result, they produce fake references for rental applications. They can have someone from family or friends pose as a landlord to get them through screening.
The motive for lying can be anything. The applicant may not have a rental history or poor rental history. Regardless, lying is a major red flag in the tenant screening process. It’s easier to call a landlord if the applicant has rented property with a well-known property management services firm.
But what if the prospective tenant had a private landlord as a rental reference?
6 Signs of Fake Landlord Reference
Here’s how you look for fake landlord references:
1. Cross-Check Contact Details
When you get a renter’s application, your first instinct should be to cross-check contact details. Some services offer owner details, phone numbers, location and other information. Conduct a reverse contact detail lookup to ensure that information provided by the applicant matches. In case it doesn’t, chances are applicants have given fake references.
You can also verify a reference by searching their website. If they don’t have a website or an ad posting, you’re probably dealing with a fake reference. We’d advise looking for a prospective landlord’s advertised number and not simply calling the number your applicant has provided. This way, you can ensure that you’re speaking to the actual property owner or landlord.
2. Call The Reference
Call the reference number on the application and pretend to be a renter looking for a place to live. Ask them whether they have a rental property available. A real property owner would answer you. But if the reference is fake, they would be clueless. Instead of asking them to confirm a landlord reference, catch them off guard by putting on a little act.
3. Look Up Socials
You can be one step ahead of fake applicants by checking their social media. Does your landlord’s name appear in the applicant’s photos on their socials? It could be one sign that they have a personal relationship and may not have a legal tenancy relationship.
4. Pay Attention to Answers
Listen closely to the responses once you call the given reference to confirm the applicant’s rental history. Granted, some landlords don’t remember a tenant; it’s still a red flag if all they’re doing is agreeing to what you’re saying.
5. Verify Information
Most professional landlords and property managers keep a record of their tenants. The information such as the date of tenancy and termination, social security numbers and other relevant information can be found in their records. Please verify the information provided by the applicant with that of their previous landlord. This can confirm both applicants’ rental history and assure authentic landlord reference.
6. Check Public Records
One way to verify the legitimacy of landlord references is by cross-checking their name with tax and other public records. You can check reference’s tax records to identify the owner of a property. If the names don’t match, it’s a sign to be warier. Although it could also mean that the reference is not the owner anymore, you could ask them to whom they sold their property. If they’re unaware, the chances are that reference is fake.
These steps are not a surefire way to steer clear of fake references. Yet, paying attention to these signs can decrease your chances of getting fake landlord references. You can save time and money to review reliable tenant applications.
Next Action Plan
Once you find the fake reference, you can be tempted to discard the application. However, the problem with this approach is that applicants may claim to be discriminated against if their application appears clean.
To avoid this problem, you should explain the income reference number to the applicant. If the reference is fake, the applicant will apologize and move on. If the matters worsen, you can remind the applicant about the consequences of falsifying documents. Misrepresentation in tenant screening and application is illegal and a legitimate reason to reject a tenant’s application.
Stress-Free Tenant Screening in Federal Way
At Sensible Home Management, we are committed to offering all-inclusive property management services to ensure you find reliable tenants. With our tenant screening services, each applicant undergoes extensive screening to ensure none of the applicants has fake rental references. Our tenant screening process includes a national background check, income verification, credit check, employment, and past eviction checks.
Apart from screening, we also advertise your rental property on high traffic and high profile websites to make sure we only attract reliable tenants. We assist you throughout the tenancy process from marketing, lease agreement, to move-in.