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Tampa Property Management Tip #8 - How Do You Tell When a Possible New Tenant is Lying?

If you have been a landlord for any length of time, you know that applicants lie on their tenant applications, on the phone, and right to your face. You just cannot trust what an applicant writes or tells you at face value. You must verify and do it quickly.

Red Flag #1 – Tenant wants to move in this weekend and has cash to give you now.

This is a classic one that just about every landlord knows about, but we still fall for it.  When you have a property that has been sitting vacant for months and you are sick and tired of showing it, you are ready to take the next live body that walks through the door.  This is when you are most likely to allow a Resident to move-in before you have verified all the information on their application.  A good landlord has to rehearse this scenario in their head over and over again to avoid the temptation.  Never, ever rent to someone without completing the application process.  

Red Flag #2 – When you call to verify employment, you reach someone’s cell phone or direct line and they do not announce the company name.

Deadbeat tenants try and game the system by having a friend pretend to be their employer.  I do not like to ever accept a direct line to a supervisor.  Instead, we look up the company phone number, call, and ask to be patched through to the supervisor.  This way you know 100% of the time if the tenant has an actual job or not.

Red Flag #3 – When you call to verify rental history, the person answering does not seem like a landlord.

This one is tough because you are dealing with a lot of private landlords.  How do you know which one is true and which one is a phony?  I look at the rest of the application and judge the quality.  If everything else is great, I usually just accept the landlord feedback as fact.  However, if the rest of the application is spotty such as short employment history, series of collection debts, I become suspicious.  At that point, we look up the owner of the property in the county tax appraiser website.  If the name of the landlord does not match the name on the appraiser’s site, I pass.

By the way, on most credit reports you will see their previously reported addresses.  If the address of their last rental doesn’t match an address on their credit report, I dig deeper because this is often a sign that their previous address listed on the application is not correct.

Red Flag #4 – There is a collection report on their credit report that could be a landlord.

The real value of a credit report for me is looking for previous evictions.  A decent amount of landlords will turn a tenant into a collection agency after an eviction, skip, or move-out with a lot of damages.  Typically, this account will be over $1000.  In fact, I make it a rule of thumb to closely examine any negative account over $1000.  If the name sounds like an apartment community, you usually have found an eviction.  Listen up; do not rent to this person no matter what their explanation or reason.  If they didn’t pay a previous landlord, they will not pay you 80% of the time.  You do not want to play those odds.

Red Flag #5 – Tenant wants to be honest with you and share all their problems with previous landlords and collection accounts.

This ploy preys on your sympathy and sense of fair play.  Here is where you hear the “stories.”  You will hear stories of how their previous landlord didn’t fix anything.  The tenant had to move out because the plumbing pipe burst or the AC was not working for 3 months.  You will hear stories of how they became extremely ill and lost their job, their child became terribly sick, and so on.  

A landlord is not a social worker.  This is a business of choosing the right tenant to take care of your property and pay rent on time.  I disregard all stories and make the application process stand on its own.  If an eviction or collection account to a previous landlord shows up, application is denied.  If the applicant is on unemployment, the application is denied.  If they have a recent criminal background, application is denied.  

Once again, you must rehearse these scenarios in your mind.  It is extremely tempting to make exceptions to your screening process.  Fighting these temptations will make you very successful in choosing tenants.  In the end, you must be able to afford and be comfortable letting a rental sit vacant, for months, until the right tenant comes along.  This is not to say you should be extremely picky, but your Tampa property management company should be reasonably selective and play the odds.

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