Ensuring that you’ve found a quality tenant often requires rolling up your sleeves and doing a little investigating of your own. The right information won’t just come to you, and unfortunately, the typical verification methods are rarely enough. It’s easy enough to falsify rental applications, and not always easily recognizable, so landlords need to do their own research and double-check the facts.
To start, always run your own credit report. It may seem like the potential tenant is helping you out by providing a credit report for you. However, this option leaves room for the applicant to doctor numbers. Don’t take the risk: Just run your own report.
Along those same lines, double check the proof of residency and proof of employment. Today, most people have a working understanding of programs like Photoshop and can figure out how to manipulate files on a computer. It’s up to you to check that the past residences actually exist, and that their past employment checks out. Call the old landlords, call the old employers. Don’t just take their word for it, and don’t just trust the documents they give you.
Finally, and perhaps most importantly, research those references. Make sure you’re not on the phone with somebody’s cousin, pretending to be an old landlord. There are many ways to go about this process: Google the names. Check out their social profiles on Facebook, LinkedIn, and anything else you can find to make sure this person does own the property or work at the applicant’s company. You should always make a phone call, as letters are much easier to fabricate, but do try to follow-up with an email. That way, you can check that it’s coming from a work address that matches what’s listed on the application.
Another important step in verifying that the references are legitimate is to interview the potential tenant first. When you do so, ask them specific questions that you’ll later double-check with their references. For example, ask what their monthly income is and what their regular debt obligations are. Then, when you talk to the references, keep an eye out for inconsistencies.
If you really want to make sure this tenant is the right match, don’t just rely on the references listed. Do some hunting yourself. Call the company’s front desk and ask for the applicant’s supervisor, as opposed to just using the listed number. See if what that boss has to say is still good. Go to their last place of residence and ask the neighbors. Even try asking the listed references for other references on that person’s character. Don’t be afraid to follow the rabbit hole.
Choosing a tenant is a major decision. The wrong choice could lead to someone who trashes your property, or who squats there without paying, just waiting until you jump through the regulatory hoops to kick him or her out. Before making such a significant decision, you need to do the digging to find all the facts.