If you are a landlord, you will run into tenant applicants (and tenants for that matter) that will just lie to your face or on their tenant applicant screening. I had another one recently, that I just felt I had to share [long story, but it will give you some key red flags to watch for].
The property is in Burnsville, 4 bed, 2 bath, $1350 per month. I posted it on Craigslist and Postlets which generated a bunch of calls. I got 2 emails and 1 phone call from a couple that were very interested in the property (for liability reasons, lets say their names are Bill and Sally Smith). I speak to Bill and he tells me that the need to move as soon as possible as the property they are living in has been sold. I always think it is fishy when someone says they need to move ASAP, but I had several other people showing up for this showing, so no need to turn them down now.
Bill, Sally and 4 kids arrive on time (I am super late and they wait for me). They are very nice, well dressed, drive decent cars and seems like a good candidate. I make small talk asking them where they live, where the kids go to school, where they work (the whole time, seeing if their story checks out and any red flags come up). They complete applications and pay me the application fee and I say I will get back to them in 24 hours.
Next morning, I review their application. It is impressive. 5 years at their current property (2009-2014), Sally has worked in her job for 7 years, Bill has only been at his employer for 18 months, but it is with a government agency in a blue-collar job with a nice hourly rate. Bill’s previous job he held for 18 years. Collectively they make about $60k per year. They state no evictions, bankruptcies or felonies. Alright! I found one!
First step is a call to their existing landlord, Susan. She has an out-of-state number, but she answers immediately. Susan says that she moved and then rented the house because it would not sell. She said Bill and Sally are great tenants, lived their 5 years, always current on their rent and expected to give them back their deposit. Plus she was flexible when they moved out since the closing was in 30 days. Excellent!
Next I run Bill and Sally’s tenant screening application. The new screening service that I am using is much more extensive than the old one I have. It is nationwide and can show your entire rental and living history with evictions in other states! Well, I review Bill’s screening results. It denies him based upon my pre-determined criteria I set up. Huh. Why? Looks like Bill has an eviction on his record from 6 months ago at the property they are leaving. Plus, as I am looking through Bill’s previous addresses (collected from public records and credit reports), I see another address in Minneapolis on there for 2012-2013. Strange. I review Sally’s application. She also has that same eviction and other Minneapolis address on her screening results.
**Important Trick**On a hunch, I pull up the Hennepin County Tax records for this house they are leaving. Susan (the one they listed as the landlord on the application) is not listed as the owner or taxpayer. Jennifer is and Jennifer lives in Mankato. I good Jennifer’s name and confirm that she is the owner. Susan’s name does not come up anywhere. On the phone, Susan said she moved, but I think that maybe I misunderstood and she is the property manager?
To try to resolve this, I call Bill. I say that I have spoken to Susan, their current landlord and she said they have been their 5 years, but what about this other address? Bill says that they did live at the other Minneapolis during that time (2012-2013) and have only been at their current place for 12 months. What about the eviction? He says he withheld rent from the owner and took them to court as they were not repairing a roof leak [I could not confirm this from the eviction record in the screening]. I ask about Susan and if she is the property manager. Bill says no that they write the checks to her and that she is the owner. Well, now I am confused and curious.
At this point, the tenant has lied on their application about their current rental and the eviction, I could have ended here and denied them. But, I was curious what was going on and I wanted to insure that my reports were telling me the truth, so I continued to investigate.
I call Bill’s work number listed on the application. The number just rings with no voicemail (remember, this is a government agency-surely they would at least have voicemail). I call his previous employer and he says Bill only worked their 1.5 years (not 18 like the application says). Sally’s employment verification checks out.
Using the Google results for Jennifer (the actual taxpayer on the property) I started making phone calls of any number associated with her. On phone call #3, I got Jennifer on the phone. I explained who I was and that Bill and Sally said that they have to move as the property is being sold, they have lived their 5 years and that they withheld money for repairs and they pay someone named Susan their rent. There was a long pause and Jennifer said “not one piece of what is true”! Jennifer gave me the name and number of the real property manager (not Susan). After speaking with this person, she explained that Bill and Sally were being evicted for a 2nd time for non-payment of water bills and that it was good that I dug for this information as I would have regretted renting to them.
Wow! Not only did this tenant lie on their application, they lied on multiple details and even had a friend or family member pretend to be the landlord for the verification. Also, because they were moving out on the day of their eviction, this 2nd eviction did not show up in my screening system yet!
Moral of the story: listen very carefully, if something catches your ear, smells fishy or doesn’t add up, keep digging!