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How to Avoid Costly Tenant Screening Mistakes landlord help Rental applicants come with all sorts of unique backgrounds and circumstances.  Many aren’t perfect, but they’ll do just the same.  However, some are fraudulent tenants – flat-out liars – and a landlord must spot them quickly to avoid hazards down the road.

Here are some things to watch for: 1.  A candidate that has not, or will not, provide the real name and number of the current or previous landlord.  There can be lag time between when an eviction is initiated, and when it will show up on a person’s tenant screening reports.  It’s during that “grace period” that the soon-to-be-evicted tenant will contact you to secure a new rental.

2.  The SSN that is provided doesn’t match the candidate’s profile.  SSN’s are coded by state, and additionally, all the remaining screening reports should match up to the information you see in front of you.

3.  The candidate doesn’t complete items on the application, like previous addresses or dates,  because they “can’t remember”.  That may be the case, but that’s still not a good sign!

4.  All the references have met with unfortunate circumstances — the company closed, the boss retired, the previous landlord died, they have no next of kin — no one remembers this candidate.

5.  The candidate wants to pay in cash – a telltale sign of  non-traceable business activities.  This is particularly problematic if they offer to pay you more rent than you are asking for, unless you have an amazing rental property with candidates standing in line to get in.

The best defense to a fraudulent tenant is to cross-reference information against a variety of tenant screening reports.  One report may show a deviation from the others, for instance, an address that’s not on the application.  Running an eviction or criminal report may explain why the tenant is lying.  Available tenant screening reports include:

Credit Reports Eviction Reports (national option available)
Criminal Background Reports (national option available)
Previous Address Tenant History Sex Offender and Terrorist lists
SSN Fraud Detector Report
TRACE Report
Telecheck Bad Check Database

Previous landlord verification and employment verification services are also available.

American Apartment Owners Association offers discounts on products and services for landlords related to your rental housing investment, including rental forms, tenant debt collection, tenant background checks, insurance and financing. Find out more at

  • [email protected]

    On the other hand and as a counter-point, the best tenants we’ve had are ones that violated most or all of these principles. Interestingly enough, a fraction of applicants are privacy advocates who choose to pay in cash and not reveal private information and ARE willing to pay an additional service / rental fee to overcome their reluctance to share information. One was a woman who had restraining orders against an ex-husband, another was a journalist who had been threatened with violence for his work, and another was a disabled, elderly couple who had prior identity fraud issues with a family member.

  • cranky landlord

    Unlike our great legal system, a tenant IS A LIAR unless they can proove otherwise.

  • Dr. Science

    Only one sure way to tell when they’re lying. This method is a tried and true way of knowing. When their lips are moving.

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