For many landlords, fraud is a four-letter word. That is because they know it spells getting ripped off with precious little recourse to collect the bad tenant debt.
Tenant background checks can help curb the significant number of rental applications that are completely fabricated, from the applicant’s name and social security number to job, bank and personal references.
Many delinquent tenants are better at writing fiction than holding down a job!
Learn to recognize some common-and some not so common-signs of fraud:
- The bolder forms of fraud involve stolen or fake ID and often are used by professional con artists. Always meet face-to-face with prospects to improve the odds you’ll notice discrepancies – for example, a noticeable difference in appearance from the ID. People reveal themselves through common conversation. If they claim to be 50 years old, but don’t remember Elvis, that is a red flag!
- Do a full tenant background check, so you can cross-reference many reports. Is their bank account older than they are? Are there gaps in their rental history? Do they have a blank credit report? The false information is likely blended with some truth. Often, if you check out multiple sources, including references, the inconsistencies will be glaring.
- An applicant may reveal an attitude of fraud. Look for transposed numbers or omitted information. Was it an honest mistake or an attempt to defraud the property owner? Study how the prospect responds when you ask. Is he nervous? Evasive? Arrogant?
- Take a tip from law enforcement – every suspect they interview was bringing gifts to the orphanage or helping a widow cross the street. But ask questions out of chronological order, and inconsistencies emerge. As Mark Twain once said, if truth is stranger than fiction, it’s because fiction has to make sense. When a person has a chance to think about their story, it often sounds too contrived.
Other members want to hear your advice on tenant screening and tenant background checks! Please share your insights by leaving your comment below.
Collecting references is only valuable if you check them. See Tips for Checking Personal References.
Need help drafting a Lease Agreement? See our four-part series How to Draft a Solid Lease Agreement.
American Apartment Owners Association offers discounts on products and services related to your commercial housing investment including REAL ESTATE FORMS, tenant debt collection, tenant background checks, insurance and financing. Find out more at www.joinaaoa.org.
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