07 Mar 2013
As a landlord, you may or may not realise just how vulnerable you are to the ploys of con artists parading as reliable tenants. Cases of tenants scamming their landlords abound and the only real way for property owners to protect themselves is to ensure they are thorough in their tenant screening processes.
Michelle Dickens, Managing Director of TPN, illustrates just how easy it is for landlords to fall victim to a rent scam by recalling the story of one particular landlord who was approached by a tenant who said that she had seen the landlord’s property advert and was interested in renting from him. She added that she would be upfront with him that she had a poor credit history, and as such there wasn’t really any point in running the credit check. Thinking that she demonstrated honesty and integrity in her forthrightness, the landlord decided a credit check was redundant.
“During her first month of payment she issued a fraudulent proof of payment, then during months two and three, she paid but was considerably late with payment, month four saw a slight improvement in this, but by months five and six she was neglecting payment altogether,” relates Dickens.
At this point the landlord decided to issue a letter of demand and ran a credit check to gain further information as to exactly what it was he was dealing with. Looking at her credit profile it became evident that it was in fact a severe case of bad debt as she had previously failed to pay 12 months’ rent.
In light of incidents such as this, Dickens maintains that landlords can never, under any set of circumstances, afford to forego the credit check. “Watch out for tenants that are quick to spin stories and refuse to hand over documentation,” she cautions. “Also beware of individuals who claim that the information reflecting on their credit check is inaccurate.”
Under these circumstances, she advises that the tenant initiate a comprehensive dispute process and allow a credit bureau to launch an in-depth investigation into the validity of the tenant’s claims. Landlords should hold off on signing the lease with the tenant until the credit bureau has finalised investigating the information under dispute. Dickens further cautions landlords against tenants who want to try and put the lease in someone else’s name. “The lease must always be registered under the lessee’s name – no exceptions,” she maintains.
The bottom line is that with fraud rife, taking tenants for their word is simply not an option. Landlords must ensure that their screening processes are a matter of strict procedure to avoid untoward incidents.
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