A solid lease application form will request three emergency contacts. A conscientious landlord will call and make sure these people actually exist.
Once a tenant has moved in, periodically update the emergency contact information – every six months to a year. Ask the tenant to inform you of any changes to the lease application, including emergency contact information. Better yet, get that in writing.
Hopefully it will never happen. But, if you do get that emergency call — the tenant isn’t showing up at work, is seriously ill or injured, you need to know who to call.
The added benefit: if the tenant skips out owing you money, the collection agency has a much better chance of tracking them down with current emergency contact information.