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As a landlord, you’re always on the lookout for the best tenant out of your pool of rental applicants.
When you haven’t been a landlord for long, it’s important to be aware of some common tricks that desperate applicants try to pull on naïve landlords.
These scams are designed to put you off guard and convince you to skip doing a thorough background check on the applicant. Usually, it’s because the applicant has something to hide.
While you should always strictly adhere to the Federal Fair Housing Guidelines and your own standards of tenant screening, there are a few red flags that may alert to you an applicant who is trying to scam you.
Here are four common cons that you should be aware of that may tip you off about the applicant’s ability to pay and how they will treat your property:
How to pass a rental credit check for an apartment (4 common tricks)
Trick #1: The Immediate Cash Offer
An applicant may approach you with an offer that he or she will pay the first month’s rent and the security deposit in cash if you can rush the move-in date to right away. This can seem very attractive—after all, you don’t have the property sitting vacant for very long and you’ll save time on tenant screening all the other applicants.
Another seeming advantage is that with cash, you won’t have to worry about bad checks or the tenant’s inability to pay.
While there can definitely be instances where paying cash and a speedy move-in request are legitimate, it may also signal that the applicant has been asked to leave a previous rental or is being evicted. You may be lulled into a false sense of security by an enthusiastic tenant waving cash and rushing to sign a lease, only to find out that they are running from a bad rental situation.
Trick #2: Challenging the Tenant Screening Process
Whether they complain about all the rental application fees, leave blanks on the application or act hurt that you want to investigate their background, applicants who question your tenant screening process may actually have something to hide. They may even act offended that you don’t trust them or that you are questioning their integrity. A naïve landlord might agree to waive fees or skip the tenant screening process to make up for hurting someone’s feelings.
While this could just signal inexperience in renting, it can also alert you to the possibility that the applicant hasn’t been through any legitimate screening process before or that money is tight because they are worried about the fee. An experienced tenant understands that the background check, employment and landlord verification and the rest of the process takes time and money. They won’t mind waiting because they understand and appreciate what it takes to get good tenants and probably feel confident that their application will look good.
Trick #3: One of Multiple Adult Tenants
When an applicant offers to be the only one on the lease agreement, despite the fact that other adults will be living in the house, it can signal that the applicant may be the only one with a clean background. It’s always wise to run checks on everyone over the age of 18 who will be living in the rental unit, but especially if the applicant is persistent about leaving someone out of the screening process.
Applicants who raise questions about the other adults in the home filling out forms and submitting information for screening may be trying to cover up the fact that someone won’t pass the background check, whether it’s for a previous poor rental history, criminal history or unemployment. Applicants with nothing to hide will have no problem with every adult undergoing screening.
Trick #4: Currently Living With Family
Some applicants will reveal that they are currently living with family members and have no landlord references. While of course, this can be a legitimate situation based on personal circumstances, it’s not uncommon for people with poor rental histories or current financial difficulties to stay with family members when they have nowhere else to go.
The applicant may be reluctant to provide contact information for a past landlord or claim that it was long ago and they can’t remember. Without contacting past landlords, you won’t get a neutral reference on what kind of tenant the applicant is. Diligence in contacting a previous landlord is important, and the results will be worth it to get a clearer understanding of what kind of tenant this person was in the past and how that may impact your decision to accept the applicant.
When a tenant is trying to pass a credit check be sure to verify all details before moving too quickly.
Want to let the professionals handle calling your applicant’s references? See how RentPrep can help you.
What’s the most ridiculous trick you’ve experienced with a rental applicant? Share with us so we can all learn to recognize those red flags!