Updated January 12, 2022
Property investors need to increase their vigilance during tough times. While it can cause panic to lose a resident or deal with an empty property during a crisis, relaxing your guard and your screening protocols will only create more problems.
Rental scammers love to use a crisis to take advantage of property owners with a vacancy to fill. We often find that during a down economy, the volume of rental scams increases. Renters that prey on inexperienced (or desperate) property owners can create expensive problems that put you in a worse financial position than dealing with an empty property. When you can’t evict a bad renter during a crisis, you’re stuck with a problem—indefinitely.
Don’t resign yourself to a less-than-ideal renter or being overwhelmed by what might feel like a no-win situation: property management is here to help! Here’s what investors need to keep in mind when screening renters during tough times.
Please note: This article is not intended as a substitute for the great legal advice of a skilled attorney. It’s designed to help property owners get a little footing during these troubling times for our community. If you need direct legal counsel, reach out to your allies at Reeder Asset Management!
Professional Scammers Love a Crisis
Discouraged property owners are a prime target for “Serial Squatters.” For example, if your resident stopped paying rent or a lease ended without renewal, you have an empty property to fill—and a scammer is more than ready to move in! Be aware that:
- Choosing a new renter that seems “okay” on paper might be tempting.
- Serial Squatters are experts at looking like perfect residents during the application process. They have all of the answers on the application and during an interview.
- They might even have too-good-to-be-believed references—which should be a big red flag to you during the screening process.
These kinds of renters are hard to spot, but that’s where the experience of an expert property manager can help save investors from letting these bad renters move into a property.
Remember this general rule of thumb when screening renters: if they seem too good to be true, they probably are! Experienced property management professionals can help you avoid these renters, even when tough times tell you that “any” new resident is better than one more month with no renter at all.
How to Spot a Professional Scammer
A thorough screening process is the best tool to dig beneath a “perfect” application and the put-together appearance of these devious renters. When screening applicants, property owners can look for some tell-tale signs that you’re not dealing with an honest, legitimate applicant. Residential property management experts know that Serial Squatters often:
- Pay cash upfront for the application fee, security deposit, and first month’s rent. Unfortunately, this tactic makes it tempting to approve them to live in your property.
- Make a big show of how much they know about all things rental law. They’ll offer insights without prompting, and it’s often irrelevant to the interview conversation.
- Provide fake, scripted references. If more than one reference gives you a similar story about the applicant, they were probably coached!
- Have gaps in their rental history and multiple evictions. Running a background check reveals these details that you won’t find on the rental application!
Never approve an applicant until a background check supports the information they put on an application. If you’re not sure your screening process is thorough enough, let a property manager handle it for you.
Scams Don’t fool Property Managers
We’ve seen (almost) everything!A good property management company can tell you that professional scammers continue to get more creative in how they trick property owners. Therefore, a property manager with a professional screening process can help keep them out of your Salt Lake City property.
Our screening process requires these identifying resources:
- A copy of a driver’s license or state-issued ID
- Social Security number
- Date of Birth.
With that information, we conduct a background check that includes:
A Credit Report
A credit report is pulled to understand an applicant’s financial history better. This information can help landlords determine an applicant’s ability to pay rent on time. A credit report includes an applicant’s credit score, credit history, current debts and obligations, and other information that creditors use to determine an individual’s creditworthiness and whether they can afford the monthly rent.
Prior Rental History
A rental history report includes a tenant’s rental history for the past seven years. This report includes the addresses where the tenant has lived, the landlords’ contact information, and the dates of occupancy. It can also let you know if a potential renter has broken a lease in the past, made late rent payments, and if they have had an eviction.
Public Records Search
A public records search includes an individual’s criminal history, including arrests, convictions, and incarcerations. It can also include bankruptcy filings and civil judgments. This can help identify potentially dangerous renters who could damage the rental property or put neighbors in danger. Sometimes good people commit crimes when they are young and foolish. It doesn’t necessarily disqualify a person from renting your property if something shows up, but more questions should be asked.
A Social Security Fraud Search
A social security fraud search is the process of verifying an individual’s social security number to ensure that it is not being used fraudulently. This is important because it helps to protect against a potential renter who might try to take advantage using an alias. A thorough tenant screening will also search the National Criminal Alias search.
Sex Offender Registry Search
A sex offender registry search is a search of state or federal sex offender registries to determine if someone is listed on one or more registries. The information shown includes the individual’s name, date of birth, addresses, photos, and descriptions of their crimes.
Previous Landlord Verification
There are a few reasons why a landlord might want to speak with a former landlord before renting to a tenant. One reason is to get an idea of how well the tenant paid rent and if they caused any damage to the property. Another reason is to find out if the tenant caused any problems with their neighbors.
Employment and Income Verification
There are a few important reasons why it’s essential to verify a potential renter’s employment and income. First, it’s important to ensure that the renter can afford to pay rent. You don’t want to end up with someone who can’t pay rent and ends up defaulting on the lease. Second, it’s important to verify that the person is actually employed. Investors don’t want to rent to someone who may not have the financial stability to stay in the apartment for the entire lease term.
Pet Screening (For Pet-Friendly Properties)
If you allow pets in your rental properties, you should still perform a pet screening. This information will tell you the type of breed the resident has and whether they could be a danger to others or damage the property. It’s also important to ensure that the renter has a valid pet license and that their pet is up-to-date on all of its vaccines.
We leave no detail uncovered related to placing the best-qualified renter in your property. Letting professional property management experts screen your residents also helps protect your investment property from lawsuits. In addition, we follow all fair housing regulations to avoid discriminatory practices during the screening process.
A Property Management Company Helps Screen Renters During Tough Times
Scam artists love to take advantage of a crisis. However, property owners must stick to a proven screening process during tough times—or call in the professionals for help!
It’s important to perform a thorough tenant screening to prevent any potential problems that might come up during the lease term. By considering these factors, we’re able to help you find the perfect renter for your property and keep it safe from harm or damage.
Don’t let tough times override your renter screening practices! Instead, let us apply our tenant screening services when looking for your next prospective resident with an exhaustive background check, including criminal records, bankruptcy filings, civil judgments, sex offender registries, and more so you can rest easy knowing they are qualified.
Reeder Asset Management understands dealing with lost rental income during tough economic times. Instead of relaxing your renter criteria, it’s essential to stay strong and hold out for the right residents! Let our team help you keep professional renters out of your Salt Lake City properties—in good times and tough times. We’re here to help!
Learn more about how we handle rent collection in a recession with our free Collecting Rent In a Crisis Handbook!