This article was posted on Tuesday, Dec 01, 2020

One of the most crucial aspects in tenant screening is that of checking your prospective tenant’s landlord references.

Unfortunately, some tenants have been known to make up references or list friends or family members as previous landlords. There are even companies that hire themselves out to pose as landlords.  

As a property manager, you are bound to receive landlord references day in and day out.  Some are beautifully written testaments to the incredible nature of these individuals looking to rent, while others are simply fake, with bogus testimonials about the tenants.

Here are five ways in which you can spot fake references.

No. 1 – Call the References Yourself

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For starters, on most landlord references, they will provide a phone number.  One of the first things you can do to tell if the reference is a fake is to call the number inquiring about a rental.  If it is fake, the number either won’t work or will lead to a completely different person or place.

In rare instances, a fake number does lead to an individual, but they may seem to be either untruthful or not detailed in their answers.

No. 2 – Check on the Name

Go online and Google the reference’s name and look them up on social-media platforms.  Check to see if this person is tied to the potential tenant through tagged pictures and/or posts.  If there is a lot of overlap in the people’s profiles, these individuals may have a personal relationship and not a tenant/landlord relationship.

No. 3 – Look at Tax Records

The tax records for all property owners are in the public domain.  All you have to do is look up the records for the address where the applicant claims to have lived.

The name on the tax record should match the name you’ve been given.  Double-check that the property hasn’t been sold, but otherwise, this is a great way to spot a fake.

No. 4 – Analyze a Reference’s Answers

It’s best to always fall back on your knowledge as a landlord and analyze the answers that the potentially fake landlord reference has given you.  If their answers are vague and don’t have details, then it’s likely that they aren’t a real landlord and are instead a friend or family member of the person who is trying to rent from you.

No. 5 – Ask for Advice

Landlords tend to have the same frustrations, interest and problems.  It wouldn’t be at all unusual for you, as a property manager, to ask for some advice from another landlord while calling for a reference.  Ask for their procedure for getting rid of a tenant who doesn’t pay, for instance.  A real landlord will have an actual answer, even if they’re not interested in spending much time on the phone with you.

A fake, on the other hand, will likely have nothing specific to say.  This can help you further determine whether the person on the other line is a real landlord or someone just posing as such.

In Conclusion

As a property manager, a significant part of your job involves filling properties with quality, long-term tenants.  Including thorough reference verification as part of your screening process, such as the strategies above, can help you avoid costly mistakes and keep you a few steps ahead of the game.


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