9 Sneaky Lies That Tenants Tell to Get Rentals

As a landlord who has been operating rentals for over a decade, I have seen it all.

Now most tenants I have encountered are honest, decent, and hardworking folks who simply want a nice home. But from time to time you will see some who are willing to lie on their credentials or on other aspects of their application during the screening process to fool an unsuspecting landlord.

In this article, I am going to cover 9 of the most common tricks I have seen tenants use to get approved for a rental property.

Let’s get into it!

The information contained in this post is for informational purposes only.  It is not legal advice.  You should seek the advice of a qualified legal professional before making any decisions relating to the topics covered by this article.

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1. The Sob Story

Ok, this one has to take top billing. If you have been in the landlording business for any length of time, you have heard a tenant tell some form of sob story.

Some tenants are incredibly creative and convincing. And they really know how to pull on your heartstrings. It’s because they have had a lot of practice.

The sob story is usually used when the tenant has some sort of defect in their application or would otherwise not qualify for the rental.

This means they have probably given the story to other landlords and their routine is extremely polished. That have answered the probing and tough questions before and have developed perfect answers.

Don’t fall for this common scam.

Maybe in the rare instance, they are actually telling the truth, but you don’t know. And even if they are, if you are going to make an exception for them, you could be accused of unlawfully discriminating against other applicants because you did not uniformly apply your criteria to everyone.

Not worth the risk.

2. The Fake Landlord Trap

Tenants may provide fake or manipulated references to make themselves seem like a better candidate for the rental. Usually this is in the context of a rental history check (in other words when you as a landlord call prior landlords about the tenant).

To avoid falling for this deception, landlords should check reverse check the phone number using tools like spokeo and whitepages.com. They can provide details on the phone number owner including, location, alternate contact info, and names of family members.

If the information doesn’t match what was given to you, the number may not be legitimate. You can also check public records around who owns a particular property. If the owner’s name does not line up with what you have been given, you should be on alert (although it is possible that the landlord used a property management company).

3. The Fake Employer Trap

A landlord may want to talk with the tenant’s employer (or boss) to confirm that they work at the company and earn what the tenant has told the landlord.

To get around this, some renters will hand out a false phone number that connects to a friend or relative. Obviously, when the landlord calls, that person will verify everything.

If landlords are careless, they can fall for this quite cunning scam.

As a preliminary matter, you could use the reverse phone look up and see if the names match.

Another way to thwart this trap is to look up the company’s information on the internet and call them directly (not the number your tenant provided). You will normally be able to reach a company operator, who can then direct you to the manager or company representative that the tenant provided.

If they work there and you are connected, then chances are pretty good that the information provided by the tenant is legit.

4. Bogus Income Stubs

Income is one the key factors in determining whether a landlord is going to approve a tenant.

Most landlords will want to see the tenant’s most recent paystubs as part of their income verification process, so, it’s an area that is ripe for deception.

With today’s technology, it is simple to produce a paystub that appears legitimate but contains incorrect information about a tenant’s income. 

Also, there are a ton of businesses online that will provide paystubs. You can easily find them by searching for “fake paystubs” on Google.

A landlord can fall for this bogus paystub if he is careless while screening applicants (and does not verify employment and income by calling the employer directly).

5. Claiming Self-Employed Status

Some tenants will claim they are self employed and therefore can’t present a paystub to the landlord.

They may offer to provide a tax return or bank statement instead. While this may seem reasonable, these items are also simple to forge, especially if the landlord is only requesting a copy of the relevant paperwork.

If a tax return is being offered, use a Form 4506. It’s an official request to the IRS by your tenant to release their tax returns directly to you.

As for bank statements, having the tenant log on in front of you is probably the best way to ensure you are seeing the true account.

6. Using a Fake Offer Letter

Some renters may simply inform their landlord that they were just offered a new job so they can’t provide a paystub.

But, as with many of the previous methods, an offer letter is ridiculously easy to fake.

All you need is some letterhead of the company that you are claiming to work for. By downloading the company’s logo and printing it on a piece of paper together with the company’s address, you may make convincing phony letterheads for the company.

Also, the tenant can make the hiring officer’s phone number on the letter a friend’s number so they can lie on the tenant’s behalf when the landlord phones to verify (we’ve covered this already).

Again, verify directly with the company using the method I outlined above to thwart this type of deception.

7. Inflating Income

Some tenants may not want to completely fake their income but instead may try to exaggerate it to make it seem higher than it actually is.

They may do this by including bonuses, commissions, or other non-guaranteed income in their calculation. As a landlord, it’s important to verify all sources of income and make sure they are consistent and reliable.

8. Hiding Past Evictions or Rental Issues

Some tenants may try to conceal past evictions or rental issues by simply not mentioning them on their application or lying about them. To prevent this, landlords should always do a thorough background check and eviction history search before accepting a tenant.

Now it is possible that a very recent eviction may not show up, but if someone is a “professional” tenant (which means they routinely scam landlords and know all the tricks of the trade), they will have left a trail of past evictions, judgments, collections and lawsuits in their wake.

9. Using Someone Else’s Identity

In extreme cases, tenants may try to use someone else’s identity to apply for a rental. Ask for valid ID and run a background check using a service like Transunion’s Smartmove.

Closing Thoughts

Overall, the key to preventing tenant deceptions is to be diligent and thorough in the tenant screening process.

Landlords should verify all information provided by the tenant, contact references and employers directly, and use professional screening services to uncover any red flags. By taking these steps, landlords can protect themselves and their rental properties from dishonest tenants.

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