Recently, while scrolling on FaceBook, I came across a post where someone was looking for an apartment.  There were some helpful responses and suggestions were offered by many.  But … one person answered, “Check your messages – I sent you a sure-fire way to get someone to rent to you even if you have bad credit, no job, etc., etc.”

As it turned out, I happened to recognize the name and, out of curiosity, I messaged him to find out how, but apparently, he must know my position with AOA and refused to answer my request. I can only imagine that his “sure-fire ways” are nothing short of deceptive and scamming as he’s moved more times than most people blink. You can bet he’s probably been evicted more than once.

They Are Out There

He’s not alone – there are many applicants waiting to take advantage of the property owner who rents out of desperation or pity. And as well, those landlords are out there too.  They don’t have a written criteria for their applicants.  They don’t check credit or eviction history.  They don’t check employment or previous landlords. They have accepted that nice looking guy who is down on his luck, has potential and needs a break.

They are the ones who find themselves with a tenant who’s lived in their unit rent-free for months along with the added cost of the eviction process.  They then call AOA … when it’s too late.  And, that “nice guy” who was helped?  Well, he just moves on to the next unsuspecting landlord and starts it all over again.

Don’t Be That Landlord!

There is no reason that landlord has to be YOU!  AOA has low-cost screening services to help you avoid these con artists.  Trust your instincts and make NO DECISIONS until you have done your due diligence.  There are “sure-fire” ways you can protect yourself from being taken advantage of and ending up with one of these deadbeats.  The politicians and their screwed-up rental housing laws are already stealing money out of your pockets – don’t allow new applicants to do it too!

What Should You Do?

  1. Be sure to give the applicant a copy of your written criteria list with the application.
  2. Make sure the application is filled out completely and signed when returned.
  3. Ask to see a photo I.D. of your applicant.
  4. DEMAND cash, a cashier’s check or money order for the purpose of running credit and eviction reports. (Most scammers won’t give you money if they have poor rental or credit history and know they’ll be denied!)  Note that the law requires you to provide a receipt for these fees.
  5. Investigate: Talk to previous landlords, employers and references.  Verify that the owners of previous residences are actually the owners, get copies of pay stubs, etc.
  6. Call AOA to get a comprehensive and low-cost, 24-7 instant access credit and eviction report. Also run criminal searches and social security verifications.  AOA’s 5-Star Report covers all of the above for only $26.95.  Again … no money out of your pocket; the applicant pays for it.
  7. Once you have thoroughly checked out and approved your applicant, schedule a day for the lease signing and key distribution. Make sure all prospective applicants are present and do not allow access until each new renter has signed the agreement.
  8. S. – When asked if you accept Section 8, ALWAYS say yes. It is a law that you must accept them and you will end up with a discrimination lawsuit if you ever say no.  There are applicants and attorneys just waiting to set you up for that.

As you know, this is not “sure-fire”, but doing so will lessen your chances of getting a bad tenant.  There are a lot of great renters out there, but there are also those who have a keen ability to pretend to be one.   Don’t be coerced into making immediate or emotional decisions.

If every rental property owner followed the above suggestions, these deadbeat scammers wouldn’t have a chance!   Let’s save the landlords who don’t perform due diligence for Judge Judy.

Patricia Harris is Senior Editor of the AOA magazine.