You have probably noticed the somewhat stunning statistics that show over half of Americans reportedly lie or embellish on their job applications.
According to Mary Lorenz, spokeswoman for CareerBuilder, “One of the reasons candidates may feel okay embellishing their resumes is that they don’t realize hiring managers are actually following up to verify the claims they make on their resumes.”
When it comes to screening tenants for rental properties, with thousands of dollars at risk, we must conduct verifications on every rental application — and perform them well.
As real estate investors, we know that some lie on their rental applications, and we know there are career ‘skippers’ we simply must avoid. In fact, the attached picture is related to an eviction in which the landlord did not perform any verifications, and unwittingly, he was dealing with a career skipper.
To add to the story, after this tenant was evicted, immediately on the next rental application, the tenant listed the very same landlord who had just evicted him as a reference. The applicant was playing the odds, banking that yet again another landlord would not verify information properly.
So, here’s how you can perform solid landlord verifications to protect your asset, along with a few sneaky tips to really sniff out the truth.
There are two primary verifications that must be performed:
- Income/Employment Verification
- Rental History Verification
Verifying income and employment can be tricky since most large employers will require you to communicate with their HR Department, providing very little information, if any, on your applicant. Tell your applicant that to consider them seriously, you must verify their employment details, and therefore it’s essential that you speak to the supervisor listed on the rental application, if possible. Otherwise, there are 3 ways to try and verify income, and ideally, put 2 of the 3 to work as you verify income:
- Get pay stubs from the applicant – preferably for the last two months, minimum. And be wary, it’s easy to buy a fake pay stub off the internet. You must still call the employer, look at LinkedIn, and find collaborative evidence that the pay stub is legitimate
- Get tax returns from the applicant, especially if they are self-employed
- Get bank statements from the applicant and trace the inbound paychecks – again preferable for two months minimum
No doubt verified income and employment history is one of the most critical pieces of the background check – make sure you do it thoroughly.
Rental History Verification
Rental history verifications are also a critical step – though use your professional skepticism. Current landlords can be known for saying glowing remarks on their renters simply to offload them.
Your best sources are prior landlords who have nothing to gain or lose by telling the truth. Use open-ended questions and have two objectives:
1. Validate information on the rental application for trustworthiness
Ask detailed questions specifically to verify the information your candidate stated on the rental application. Decline all applicants who have any mistruths on the application. Good examples include:
- What dates did he/she live there?
- How much was rent?
- Was he/she a smoker?
- Were they ever late on a rent payment (ensure this is a question on your rental application)
2. Ascertain rental behavior
Ask other open-ended questions like:
- Was the security deposit returned in full?
- Would you rent to him/her again? Why/why not?
- Were there pets?
- Any neighbor issues you had to address, like being loud etc
Now, having said all that, this only helps if you are speaking to the actual landlord and not your applicant’s best friend. To verify you are speaking with the landlord:
- Try to match the person’s name to the public records as the homeowner
- Google the person’s name and call that number versus the # listed on the application (if they are different, beware)
- Before you identify yourself to the landlord as to who you are and why you are calling, ask “is your rental still available?” If the response is “What rental?,” you might be speaking to a friend.
So be sure to check the prior rental history well to ascertain if this is someone who is honest and who has shown to be a reliable renter in the past.
In closing, do your due diligence and use these tips of experience to verify thoroughly! For more information, check out our Guide on How to Screen Like the Pro’s.
Rent Marketplace helps independent landlords, property owners and local property managers screen tenants, select reliable renters, and stay compliant. With online applications, tenant screening, state-specific leases and more, users can move in better residents, faster.