Any responsible Baltimore City property owner knows the importance of tenant screening when it comes to placing tenants in their property.
You want to make sure the tenant you are considering has no criminal background, has verifiable income that can cover the monthly rent expenses, and has a good credit score.
Since most rental applications require prospective tenants to list personal and professional references, along with contact information regarding their employers and past landlords, it is equally important that you do not skip verifying these references during the screening process.
Though it shouldn’t come as any surprise, plenty of potential tenants fabricate their references in an attempt to secure a rental home.
And, while this may seem somewhat harmless, the truth is, tenant references have the potential to reveal some very helpful information about your tenant that the paperwork may not.
But how do you know if the references listed on an application are in fact real?
To help answer this question, we will look at some of the best ways you can ensure that your prospective tenant’s references are legitimate.
Verifying Your Baltimore City Tenant References
1. Interview the Tenant First
One thing you might not think about when looking to verify a potential tenant’s references is to talk with the tenant first.
This initial conversation can be brief and should include questions such as:
- Where are you currently employed?
- What is your monthly gross income?
- What might your boss or former employers say about you as an employee?
- What are your monthly debt obligations?
- What do you think your previous landlords would have to say about you?
Interviewing a tenant before calling their references will give you a heads up on anything that may seem amiss about the tenant.
It also lays a good foundation for comparison between what the tenant says, and what the references say.
You never know what a tenant’s reference is going to say. Having an idea beforehand what may be said will alert you to any discrepancies right away.
2. Explain the Consequences of Falsifying a Reference
Some prospective tenants are going to lie about their references, no matter what.
Unfortunately, that’s just part of being in the rental property business.
However, explaining that any falsifications discovered on a tenant application, references included, will lead to an automatic rejection of the application, may cause some tenants to think twice before lying.
Being clear upfront about the consequences of a dishonest tenant application may help to discourage tenants from putting any fake information on the application.
It also gives the tenant a look at how serious you are about leasing your property. It gives the impression that you stand firm, act as a professional, and will not tolerate problems of any kind.
3. Ask for Pay Stubs
Sometimes tenants do not have a good relationship with their employers and have someone else, such as a friend, act as their boss on the other end of the phone when a property owner calls in to verify an employer reference.
One great way to get around this, and better verify the tenant’s income in the process, is to ask for a few pay stubs, and possibly even employment verification documents.
With this information on hand, you can conduct your own research, and see if the reference listed is in fact a real person.
In addition, you can reach out to the employer’s HR department and ask to be put in direct contact with the tenant’s employer, rather than call the number listed on the reference sheet.
This will help diffuse any “fake boss” calls.
4. Always Call References
It is very easy to forge a written reference, either on paper or via email. In addition, you may not get a real feel for how a reference feels about a tenant when reading a prepared statement.
It is best to call all of your prospective tenant’s references and talk with them one-on-one.
This question-and-answer type of conversation may yield some red flags, or further confirm a potential tenant as a good fit for you.
In addition, speaking in person with someone will help solidify that your tenant’s references are real.
5. Be Specific in Your Questioning
However, just because you call a tenant’s references and speak to someone directly, does not mean they are a real reference.
Thus, when it comes to interviewing a tenant’s previous landlords, there are specific things you can start off with during the conversation to help verify you are speaking to a landlord, as opposed to a buddy pretending to be one.
RentSpree recommends prefacing the conversation with a statement that you are simply going to ask some generic questions first, to verify that they are an actual landlord.
RentSpree then goes on to say you should ask things like what type of license is needed to become a landlord in that particular region, and what type of inspections are required to lease property.
A real landlord will be able to answer these questions easily.
6. Ask for More References
There is nothing stopping you from asking a tenant’s reference for a secondary reference.
In fact, this tactic is very useful when verifying employer references. The more people you talk to about the potential tenant, the better insight you will gain into what type of person, and tenant, they are likely to be.
Start by thanking the reference for their time, and then kindly ask for the contact information of another person that works closely with the tenant.
If you are immediately given information, you can almost guarantee your tenant’s employer references are real.
7. Hire a Property Management Company
An experienced property manager will have had run-ins with tenant references of all kinds.
They are best suited to tell when someone is being dishonest, and when the true character of a potential tenant is being revealed.
There is no doubt that a skilled property management company will be able to handle tenant screening better than anyone else will, yourself included. Their job is to place high quality tenants in your rental property, so that you continue to employ them for their services.
Not taking tenant screening, specifically reference checks, seriously would do their business more harm than good.
That’s why relying on a quality property management team to screen your tenants for you is often your best bet for ensuring a tenant has given you real references.
In the end, verifying that your Baltimore City tenants have real references on their rental application can be tough.
It will often take some extra research on your end, and a little bit of gut instinct to decide whether a reference is telling the truth. Luckily, however, there are good ways of getting around some issues that tend to pop up with fake tenant references.
If you are in the Baltimore City area and own rental property that needs a tenant, contact Bay Management Group today and see how we can help you with your tenant screening and placement needs.
Not only do we have a thorough tenant screening process in place that includes contacting all potential tenant references, we also have a 12-month tenant warranty in place that promises to re-lease your property for free, should your tenant be evicted within the first year of leasing your property.
So, contact us today and take advantage of this great warranty, among many other things.