With the COVID-19  laws allowing tenants six months to a year in order to make up past due rent, numerous members have expressed fear and frustration that renters with outstanding balances will simply pick up and move somewhere else after months of deferred (aka “free” rent) without paying what is owed.

As all landlords are, for the first time, basically in the same boat with the same potential problems, there is a possible safeguard against this “walking away” strategy.

Written Qualification Criteria

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In the past, during the application process, landlords with vacancies would ask for income/employment verification, rental history and (hopefully!) run credit and eviction checks.

Rental history verification has always been problematic because so many owners manage their own properties.  Therefore, when calling previous landlords, one never knows if they’re actually talking to a landlord or the applicant’s cousin, friend or hair stylist.

Going forward, my suggestion is that ALL LANDLORDS include in their written qualification criteria list that applicants must prove that their rent is up-to-date where they are currently living. This could be in the form of bank statements, pictures of cashed checks, copies of money orders, or whatever payment documentation applicants have that can then be verified by their actual landlords.

If the majority of landlords demand this from applicants and renters cannot comply, they will be denied and won’t be able to walk away from outstanding rent.  They will be forced to stay where they are and pay off their balances.

A Thief is a Thief is a Thief

Members have been skeptical that other landlords with vacancies will be willing to do this.  Again – same boat, same time.  If a renter was willing and able to cheat one landlord, they certainly will be willing to do it to the next one!

The added benefit of this requirement is that it’s a better way to verify rental history at any time in the future – not just during the COVID-19 crisis.

So attention all landlords!  Add this requirement to your written qualification list and hand it to each new applicant applying to rent from you.  Not only may this save you from renting to a dishonest, deadbeat tenant, but it will also help other landlords who have been denied rent by these same people for what could prove to be months.

As always, we are stronger and more powerful when we stand together!

Rebecca Abbot is an AOA advisor and the Branch Manager of AOA’s Long Beach Office.