Checking up on a private landlord reference

Tenants who present rental references from a private landlord can raise suspicion. After all, how do you know the voice on the other end of the line is actually the landlord not a friend or relative of the applicant?
There are a number of steps property managers can take to minimise the risks of private renters and give all prospective tenants a fair go:
  • Make sure the current address cited by the tenant matches details on their ID and recent utility bills.
  • Examine the tenant’s ID carefully – does the photo look like the person and are the details consistent across different forms of ID? Fake IDs are sometimes presented.
  • Perform an RP Data check on the tenant’s address and make sure that the name of the owner is the same as the name you have been given as a referee.
  • Attempt to source the owner’s phone number independently. How? You might get their home number listed in the White Pages. If you can find the person on LinkedIn, you might be able to call their office and ask to speak to them.
  • Google the phone number the tenant provides for the reference – you never know what you’ll find associated with the number (in one case the landlord of a short-term rental discovered the person planned to hold an orgy in his property).
  • If you need to call the referee on the mobile number given by the tenant, ask for the person by first name only and close by asking the referee what their surname is – this could trip up underprepared fake referees.
  • Ask open-ended questions: “How was X as a tenant?”
  • Google the tenant’s address – sometimes it will return old leasing advertisements, and show that the property is not privately managed.
  • Ask to inspect the tenant’s current residence – is it being kept tidy?
  • Ask for references from the address before last and check those in addition to the most recent ones.
  • Ask to see bank statements showing regular rent payment.
  • Google the tenant – it’s amazing what negative information people share about themselves in public forums and on social media (also useful for checking whether tenants are being truthful about not having pets).
  • Perform extra careful employment checks as a back-up safeguard.
  • Don’t forget to check the tenancy default databases.