Updated May 2021
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 rental 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 you to an applicant who is trying to scam you.
Here are some of the most common cons that you should be aware of and clues about the applicant’s ability to pay and how they will treat your property:
Table Of Contents On Tricks Desperate Applicants Use
From faking rental history to cheating on a rental application, there are many tricks that desperate rental applicants will try to use to scam landlords. The best way to avoid these tricks is to learn more about them, how they are usually done, and how to avoid the scams altogether. Here’s how to do it.
- Why Landlords Need To Know About Scams
- Common Tricks To Pass A Rental Credit Check For An ApartmentTrick
- Trick #1: The Immediate Cash Offer
- Trick #2: Challenging The Tenant Screening Process
- Trick #3: One Of Multiple Adult Tenants
- Trick #4: Currently Living With Family
- Trick #5: Providing Their Own Credit Report
- Trick #6: Bad Rental History Apartments
- Trick #7: Faking References On A Rental Application
- Top 3 Reasons Tenants Should Know These Rental Tricks
- FAQs: Identifying Tricks Used By Desperate Renters
Landlords are accustomed to reviewing rental applications to see which tenants are going to be the best fit, but not all landlords are on the alert when it comes to common rental scams. Why is it so important for landlords to know what to look for on rental applications?
In addition to the information provided on applications being genuinely important for tenant selection, it’s also a great way to get more familiar with the tenant. Applications that are full of lies are not going to help you have a successful landlord–tenant relationship, so this information is crucial to watch out for.
Scams used by dishonest rental applicants can be hard to spot. There are many different tricks that people may pull when they are trying to lead new landlords into their traps. Even the most experienced landlords can fall for complex scams!
Take time to review these scams and get a better understanding of how they work. With this understanding, you’ll be more prepared to spot them and to prevent them from tricking you.
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. This can seem very attractive—after all, you won’t have the property sitting vacant for very long and you’ll save time on screening all the other applicants.
Another apparent advantage is that, with cash, you won’t have to worry about bad checks or the tenant’s inability to pay.
While there certainly can be instances where paying cash and a speedy move-in request are legitimate, it may instead 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 they are running from a bad rental situation.
Whether they complain about all the rental application fees, leave blanks on the application, or seem 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 the applicant’s inexperience with renting, it can also alert you to the possibility that they haven’t been through any legitimate screening process before or that money is tight so 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.
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 current unemployment. Applicants with nothing to hide will have no problem with every adult undergoing screening.
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 the details. Without contacting past landlords, you won’t get a neutral reference on what kind of tenant the applicant has been. 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 now.
This one may sound shocking, but it’s been seen before. Professional tenants or desperate applicants who are trying hard to get approved may falsify a credit report. Then, they’ll attach it to their application.
Landlords who are unaware of how this could be a scam might accept the report without question, but that’s not a good idea. Running your own background checks and credit reports, on your terms, is always going to be the best choice.
Bad tenants will go to places where other bad tenants have found success. Like breeds like, unfortunately, and some units can become bad rental history apartments without the landlord even realizing it.
When you allow bad tenants to continue to rent your properties or do not get rid of them during tenant screening, you may end up seeing even more out-of-line behavior. Eliminate the issue during tenant screening ASAP.
One common scam used by those trying to figure out how to cheat on a rental application is to lie about their references. From professional references to landlord references, applicants will write down fake names and numbers of friends or family members.
When checking references, make sure to search the names and be thorough. You want to confirm that the information is as accurate as possible.
Landlords, you are not the only ones who can benefit from being aware of these tricks. Potential tenants who are good people can also benefit from understanding these scams. Let’s talk about why that is.
First-time tenants searching for how to pass a rental credit check may unintentionally learn about some scam techniques that are going to cause landlords to deny them. By learning what may be seen as a red flag, prospective tenants can avoid this problem.
When touring a rental property, not all tenants understand why landlords are particular about who they will accept, what information goes on the application, or a number of other factors. By realizing what types of scams exist, the tenant–landlord relationship may be less strained from the beginning.
Tenants who have had financial or criminal missteps in their past will benefit from understanding what types of scams people try to pull on landlords. Explaining issues from the past may be met with some resistance from landlords due to previous bad tenants. With this knowledge, prospective new tenants can do a better job of explaining their situations in a way that landlords will respect and believe.
Rather than turn to scams and dishonesty, there are a number of ways that tenants can improve their chances of getting a rental in comparison to the average applicant. When prospective tenants ask you how to have a better shot, remember that you cannot give anyone special preference.
You can, however, take the following into account:
- Which applicants filled out their application honestly and completely?
- Who has a credit history that shows financial literacy and stability?
- Who was respectful and seemed sincerely interested in the property?
- Who has a history of being a good tenant?
Tenants who can show these things to you are likely to do a better job throughout your screening process, and that could lead to them getting the rental.
Many dishonest tenants will learn how to fake rental history, and those tricks will work on landlords who don’t do their due diligence in checking the applicant’s history.
When tenants share their address history and landlord references, take the time to check that information in detail. Look up the addresses: Do they even exist as rentals? Call each of the references and ask detailed questions to ensure that you are getting honest answers from a real landlord.
It doesn’t take much to unravel a fake story as long as you are ready to devote a little bit of time to verifying the information.
As a landlord, you may have heard talk of professional tenants. Professional tenants are individuals who know exactly what it takes to exploit the rental industry to their advantage. These people know the laws, how to get around them, and other ways to avoid dealing with the consequences of their behaviors.
From offering to pay up front to trying to stay in your property without paying for as long as possible, professional tenants can be a serious problem for landlords.
Landlords with vacant rental property may find themselves wanting to rent to a tenant who doesn’t have the best credit, because they feel that they deserve a chance. But, how can you do this safely?
First, remember that doing so will always carry some level of risk. Renting always comes with risk, regardless of how thoroughly you screen tenants. Common ways to rent to individuals with bad credit include asking for a co-signer, increasing the rent, and paying via direct means like direct deposit.
All of these methods help to guarantee that you will receive rent one way or another. Ultimately, however, it is up to you to decide if it is worth the risk.
Avoid These Tricky Situations
The tricks that desperate rental applicants will try to use to get approved may be surprising, but it’s important to learn more about them. Both tenants and landlords can benefit from getting a better understanding of what these tricks are, why they sometimes work, and how to avoid them altogether.
With this knowledge, tenants can learn what not to do on their applications and landlords can learn how to spot red flags. Together, this can create a stronger and safer rental industry for everyone involved from start to finish.
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!