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the confident woman landlord
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Most of us are familiar with The Golden Rule, “Treat others as you would like them to treat you.”

We want to believe that people are genuine, honest, and trustworthy. 

It is so easy to give someone the benefit of the doubt when you’re trying to fill a vacancy quickly, but in doing so, you could be creating a much more expensive problem for your real estate investment.

It may take a little more time but having solid screening criteria with a thorough screening process is paramount to finding a qualified tenant.

There are several components that measure an applicant’s ability to qualify. Each piece is essential, but landlord verifications can tell us a lot about our applicant upfront. 

We all share the same goal of finding tenants that consistently pay rent on time and take care of the property. The best way to achieve this goal is by verifying their rental history.

Talking to a current or previous landlord can either ease your mind, prompting you to continue processing the application, or it can raise red flags immediately, allowing you to move on to the next applicant quickly. 

But what if you are talking to a fake landlord?

Why would your applicant lie about their rental history?

TIP: Don’t take it personally

There are many reasons why an applicant would lie, particularly about rental history.

They could be behind on rent, leaving severe damages to the property, leaving the lease early, etc. 

Regardless of the reason, a tenant who is okay with not telling the entire truth is a problematic tenant. 

But what if you are talking to a fake landlord?

Why would your applicant lie about their rental history?

TIP: Don’t take it personally

There are many reasons why an applicant would lie, particularly about rental history.

They could be behind on rent, leaving severe damages to the property, leaving the lease early, etc. 

Regardless of the reason, a tenant who is okay with not telling the entire truth is a problematic tenant. 

Don’t Worry...

There is light at the end of this gloomy tunnel. There is a way to protect your investment and find your perfectly qualified, trustworthy dream tenant.

It starts with wonderful, glorious
SCREENING PROCEDURES!

So how can you strengthen your screening procedures when it comes to your applicant’s rental history?


It’s time to play Detective and investigate.

 
Read on to learn about 5 Ways to Detect Phony Landlord References.

There is light at the end of this gloomy tunnel. There is a way to protect your investment and find your perfectly qualified, trustworthy dream tenant.

It starts with wonderful, glorious 
SCREENING PROCEDURES!

So how can you strengthen your screening procedures when it comes to your applicant’s rental history?


It’s time to play Detective and investigate.

 
Read on to learn about 5 Ways to Detect Phony Landlord References.


1. Research Property Tax & Land Records

Property tax and land records are generally publicly available; however, some records are more accessible than others. Start by searching your county tax assessor website to see if these records are provided online. (If they are, be sure to bookmark that website!)

When you search for the property records, you should be able to check the owner’s name to see if it matches. The reference is most likely valid if the name matches the address provided.

 
The landlord’s mailing address should be different than the rental property’s address. Matching addresses are a red flag indication that the landlord lives there.


Be aware of inconsistencies when researching tax records.

  • A property can be titled in the owner’s personal name, or an entity such as an LLC, a Corporation, or a Trust.

  • The Tenant could have provided the property manager’s contact information instead of the property owners information.
  • The landlord may have sold the residence.

1. Research Property Tax & Land Records

Property tax and land records are generally publicly available; however, some records are more accessible than others. Start by searching your county tax assessor website to see if these records are provided online. (If they are, be sure to bookmark that website!)

When you search for the property records, you should be able to check the owner’s name to see if it matches. The reference is most likely valid if the name matches the address provided.

 
The landlord’s mailing address should be different than the rental property’s address. Matching addresses are a red flag indication that the landlord lives there.


Be aware of inconsistencies when researching tax records.

  • A property can be titled in the owner’s personal name, or an entity such as an LLC, a Corporation, or a Trust.

  • The Tenant could have provided the property manager’s contact information instead of the property owners information.

  • The landlord may have sold the residence.

2. Reverse Phone Lookup 

Check out Whitepages.com or google “reverse phone lookup”.

Search the phone number provided on the application. Does it match up with the name of the reference?


Or search the landlord’s name. Does the same phone number pop up?
 
Search for the landlord’s website to see if it matches the phone number advertised.


If there is a different number advertised, call the number. Chances are there is a reason it is different.

Check out Whitepages.com or google “reverse phone lookup”.

Search the phone number provided on the application. Does it match up with the name of the reference?


Or search the landlord’s name. Does the same phone number pop up?
 
Search for the landlord’s website to see if it matches the phone number advertised.


If there is a different number advertised, call the number. Chances are there is a reason it is different.

3. Search Social Media Sites 

Start with Facebook and search the references name. Are there any connections to your applicant’s profile? Are they friends? Are they tagged in pictures or posts?

Remember: Some landlords can be more personal with their tenants than others. If there are ties between the reference and applicant’s profiles however, it is likely because of a personal relationship rather than a landlord-tenant relationship.

 
As a landlord
are you friends with your tenants on Facebook? Do you take pictures with them? Chances are, not likely.

 
If you can’t find any information, try a general google search with the references name. You never know what might pop up. 

Start with Facebook and search the references name. Are there any connections to your applicant’s profile? Are they friends? Are they tagged in pictures or posts?

Remember: Some landlords can be more personal with their tenants than others. If there are ties between the reference and applicant’s profiles however, it is likely because of a personal relationship rather than a landlord-tenant relationship.

 
As a landlord 
are you friends with your tenants on Facebook? Do you take pictures with them? Chances are, not likely.

 
If you can’t find any information, try a general google search with the references name. You never know what might pop up.

4. Always Call The Reference 

Start with verifying information such as: 

  • Move-in date
  • Move-out date
  • Birthday
  • Monthly rent amount    
  • How many people were renting
  • Type of car they drove
  • Name of the family pet
  • Move-in date
  • Move-out date
  • Birthday
  • Monthly rent amount    
  • How many people were renting
  • Type of car they drove         
  • Name of the family pet

Pro-Tip
Do not provide the details so all they have to do is agree. 

Ask the reference to give you the information instead.

5. Ask Questions About the Property

Keep in mind that not all landlords keep pristine records. They might not know exact information about the tenant, but they would probably remember information about the property they own.

Ask for details about the property:

  • How many units are in the building

  • Square footage of the unit

  • What kind of amenities the unit offers

  • Amount of bedrooms and baths
  • Age of the home

  • When the property was purchased or refinanced

  • How many units are in the building

  • Square footage of the unit

  • What kind of amenities the unit offers

  • Amount of bedrooms and baths
  • Age of the home

  • When the property was purchased or refinanced

Many pro-screeners will give the reference false information about the unit to see how they respond. This tactic may work great for others, but I prefer to keep the conversation lighter and ask more landlord-friendly things.

For example, if I’m trying to figure out if the reference is a true landlord, I will often ask them if they own any other rental properties.

 
You can also ask for landlord-friendly advice to see how they respond. How do they handle late rent or inspections? 


Using a combination of these key points is crucial when screening your applicants rental history.

Going with your instinct, or using only one tactic is risking your investment. Always investigate further if something seems strange.

Remember: The most important part of asking the landlord questions is analyzing the responses about the tenant. 

  • The responses are too vague
  • The landlord passively agrees to what you’re asking about the tenant
  • They aren’t sure how to respond
  • They try to hang up with you quickly
  • They know too many personal details about the tenant
  • They are overly excited about how great the tenant is

In terms of avoiding a lawsuit, you must investigate thoroughly before denying an applicant for falsifying information.

It is illegal to refuse to rent based on an applicant's race, color, national origin, religion, sex, family status, or disability (Fair Housing Act). 

Keep your documents organized, and be ready to prove why you are denying an applicant.


  1. 1
    Have written screening criteria
  2. 2
    Have a written list of your screening procedures
  3. 3
    Follow your screening criteria and procedures on
    every applicant equally

Written screening criteria is a landlord's most crucial checklist to ensure that you stay out of hot water with Fair Housing. 

  • You can add criteria that immediately disqualifies false information and documents.
  • You can make the consequences of lying crystal clear. Let the applicants know up front that if false information is found, they will be immediately denied. 
  • Every potential tenant should not only complete an application, but also sign a written agreement stating that they agree to allow you to run a credit/background check and contact employers and landlords. This should also be added to your screening criteria. 

Keep Moving Forward⏩
I Believe In You!💫

“Believe nothing you hear, and half of what you see.”  

Edgar Allan Poe

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Mary Jo Whelan is a leader in the field of residential property rentals. She owns and runs a property management and renovation company in Baltimore.

Mary Jo started with no money, college education, or job. From these humble beginnings, she has grown her company to manage over 100 rental properties and manage over 50 rental renovations a year.

She co-facilities a monthly landlording strategy meeting for a local REI group and is the past president of NAPRM, National Association of Residential Property Managers.

Mary Jo is also the founder of Lucrative Landlording for Women, an exclusive community for success-driven women landlords. Lucrative Landlording provides an elite coaching program, masterclasses, and networking events designed to help women landlords maximize their cash flow and keep high-quality renters.

Mary Jo is passionate about helping women landlords succeed in the field of landlording, secure their financial future, and create generational wealth.

In her spare time, she enjoys practicing techniques for furniture painting, gardening, and traveling. And yes, just for fun, she actually jumped out of a perfectly good plane.

Mary Jo Whelan is a leader in the field of residential property rentals. She owns and runs a property management and renovation company in Baltimore.

Mary Jo started with no money, college education, or job. From these humble beginnings, she has grown her company to manage over 100 rental properties and manage over 50 rental renovations a year.

She co-facilities a monthly landlording strategy meeting for a local REI group and is the past president of NAPRM, National Association of Residential Property Managers.

Mary Jo is also the founder of Lucrative Landlording for Women, an exclusive community for success-driven women landlords. Lucrative Landlording provides an elite coaching program, masterclasses, and networking events designed to help women landlords maximize their cash flow and keep high-quality renters.

Mary Jo is passionate about helping women landlords succeed in the field of landlording, secure their financial future, and create generational wealth.

In her spare time, she enjoys practicing techniques for furniture painting, gardening, and traveling. And yes, just for fun, she actually jumped out of a perfectly good plane.


The content presented in this blog is provided for entertainment and educational purposes only and does not constitute legal or other professional advice on any subject matter. Lucrative Landlording provides information it believes to be accurate, however, Lucrative Landlording makes no representations or warranties about the accuracy or completeness of the information contained on this blog.


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