As a landlord, it’s important to conduct a full screening on any applicants, and a huge part of that screening process is getting a rental reference from current and past landlords.  I can’t tell you how many times I’ve caught prospective tenants having their friend or family member pose as a landlord. I’ve even caught someone doing it on my own rental property! And if that isn’t scary enough, there’s a ton of online fake landlord services that people can pay for.

So what can you do to protect yourself and make sure the information you are receiving is legit?

  1.  Ask a ton of questions, and ask open-ended questions.  Don’t ask – “Can you verify they are paying $1,400 monthly rent?”  Do ask – “What is the rent amount they are paying?” Don’t ask “Can you verify they live at 123 Main St?”  Do ask – “Can you verify the property address?”
  2. Have an easy conversation with the landlord.  Do a quick google map reference and if you don’t know the area, pretend you do.  Ask them “Oh, yes I think I know where this house is. What’s the main road it’s off of again?”
  3. Be weary if the answers to your questions are too personal.  Think about what you know about your tenants – not too much, right?  Also, be weary if the landlord is gushing too much about how great the tenant is, and what details they are gushing about.  A legit landlord may express they are disappointed the tenant is leaving and talk about how good they’ve been, but a fake landlord will likely overdo it.
  4. Cross-reference the tenant and landlord on social media.  Are they friends online? This could be a red flag.
  5. Cross-reference the tax records.  Verify the landlord’s name on the application matches the name of the property owner listed on the tax records.

One thing to remember is if you do deny an applicant due to false information, you must thoroughly investigate and be able to prove that false information was given.  Only going with your gut could result in a lawsuit due to non-compliance with Fair Housing Laws.

It’s easy to get a positive landlord reference when you’re applying for a property, but with just a little sleuthing, you’ll be able to spot the imposters right away.