How to identify and handle a fake landlord reference

What is Proof of Income?

Proof of income is a document or set of documents that a landlord will request to confirm that the potential renter will be able to afford the monthly charged rent over the agreed-upon time frame.

6. Social Security Benefits Statements

A Social Security statement is generally used to verify income by retirees or disabled tenants receiving Social Security disability benefits. It’s best when used as a supporting document along with the applicant’s tax returns or bank statements. Because Social Security or disability income may be low, it’s important to look at the bank statements to verify the applicant’s cash position.

How to Get Applicants’ Social Security Benefits Statement

The applicant will need to obtain a Social Security statement and give it to the landlord. The applicant may already have a copy in their files. If this isn’t the case, they can go online and log in to their Social Security account to request a statement. They also can call a regional office or go there in person to request the statement.

How to Verify Income Using a Social Security Benefits Statement

A landlord can verify the information on the Social Security statement by comparing it to their bank statements or tax returns. The benefits statement will show how much the applicant is earning per month from Social Security or disability, and when they will receive it each month. Be sure to check that benefit amounts match a secondary document or bank deposits.

Here’s an example of a Social Security or Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) benefits statement. You want to look at what type of statement it is and how much the monthly income is, as well as the yearly income.

 Type of Social Security statement Applicant&#8217
  1. Type of Social Security statement
  2. Applicant’s name and address should match the application and bank statement
  3. Monthly income after deductions
  4. Date that the applicant receives the income

The landlord can call the Social Security office number listed on the letter and ask to verify that the applicant receives the benefits mentioned in the statement. Due to confidentiality laws, the office may not confirm this until the applicant gives their permission for them to do so.

Pros & Cons of Accepting Social Security Benefits Statements

Social Security income can be a reliable source of income for applicants. The amount doesn’t change much, and it’s typically guaranteed, making it less volatile than self-employment or even W-2 income.

BenefitsDrawbacksBenefits statements show stable and consistent incomeApplicants must request a letter of earnings verification if they don’t have a current oneSocial Security statements help verify a retiree’s incomeIncome may fluctuate as laws changeStatements are easy to verify for fraud with the administering officeIt doesn’t provide insight into the applicant’s financial history


How Many Phone Calls Should Be Made For A Verification?

This is going to differ depending on who you talk to, but we have found that three phone calls, with messages left each time, within a 24-hour period is best.

Because let’s be honest, if you leave someone three messages and they don’t call you back, why would leaving one more message make them pick up the phone?

Talking to landlords and supervisors is important, though, and you need those conversations to help make your decision on whether the applicant is a good fit for your property.

To help get return phone calls from stubborn landlords/supervisors, one of our clients will actually call the applicant and tell them that their landlord/supervisor is not returning our phone calls.

Doing this will also help to show you how serious the applicant is about renting from you. If they really want the place, then they will call and ask the landlord/supervisor to call back and follow up with you.

On the other hand, if they aren’t so serious, you most likely won’t hear from that individual again.

If you want to learn more about making the verification calls, check out another great article here.

What Is A Rental Verification Form?

A rental verification form is an authorization form that a tenant applicant will sign to give permission to the landlord to perform a background check. This also includes the ability to call the current employer, previous landlord, and current landlord.

Many applications have this built right into the app. Feel free to grab our free rental application here.

In addition to this great, free rental verification form, we have a batch of forms that can be very helpful for landlords getting started with their first few rental properties. Our Starter Form Kit has everything that you need to find success!

4. Be the interviewer

Landlords ask you questions when you apply to live in their property, so why shouldn’t you ask them questions too?

Ask them how they handle repair requests. Find out if the landlord lives on-site, nearby or in a different state. Ask how the move-in and move-out process goes. Learn more about their process for requesting entry to your unit.

They should be able to easily answer your questions and address all of your concerns.

1) Authenticity

First things first, confirm how authentic your potential tenant’s information is. Let’s face it–people can lie about almost anything, especially if there’s a good chance they don’t qualify on merit. If you don’t take this matter seriously, you run the risk of renting to a sub-par tenant.

Always confirm the applicant’s identity using a government-issued identification card.  It could be a state-issued driver’s license, passport, travel visa, or social security card.  Once you have validated their identity you can continue validating the rest of the information noted on their rental application.

Check for Any Notices of Default

If you’re concerned about the landlord’s financial stability, find out whether the property you’re considering is the subject of a notice of default (the first public step toward foreclosure). Banks and other lenders must file these notices, in the courthouse of the county in which the property is located, when the owner has failed to make payments on a loan or mortgage for a specified number of months (two is common). Obviously, renting a property that’s liable to be foreclosed upon during your tenancy is not a good idea—even if you get to stay, you may end up with an owner (especially if it’s the bank itself) who will not be a conscientious landlord.

2. Search public records

There’s a wealth of information about properties and landlords available via your local government agencies, and you’re usually able to check your landlord for free. Consider it your landlord background check!

Your county courthouse should have ownership records searchable by address, so you can find the legal name of the person or company that owns the property — it may not be your landlord directly.

You can also search for code violations, foreclosure proceedings, evictions and small claims court settlements, all of which should be red flags for renters.

How to handle fake landlord references

When a tenant provides a fake landlord reference, it can be tempting to simply reject the prospective tenant and move on to the next applicant. 

However, the potential problem with choosing this route is that the tenant may claim they were discriminated against, especially if their application appears to be squeaky clean.

Instead, a landlord may explain to the prospective tenant in a non-confrontational manner why a reference given appears to be incorrect. The odds are that the applicant may apologize, then move on and learn from their mistake. 

On the other hand, if a declined applicant becomes adversarial, a landlord may remind a tenant that falsifying documents could be illegal. As the legal resource website explains, misrepresentations on a rental application are always legitimate grounds for rejecting a tenant.

2. Take a builder friend with you when you look around

If you’re planning on paying £1,000 per month to rent this place, over a year that adds up to £12,000. I know, we’re really good at maths. But think about it, that’s twelve grand, 12 stacks of £1,000. That’s shitloads of money. If you were going to buy a car for £12,000 you’d probably try and find one of your mates who was ‘good at cars’ to come with you to kick the tyres. Your home is arguably more important than a car, so take someone with you who knows what to look out for. Dave the Mechanic could save you from buying a rusty banger – find a builder equivalent.

How Do Apartments Check Rental History?

Some apartment managers have paid access to large When it comes to tenant verification, apartment managers use the same process as other landlords. After receiving consent from applicants, they use a series of tenant screening practices to look into their background.

Some apartment managers have paid access to large databases that include rental history information; others have employees who will manually check the information provided on applications.

Since apartment landlords and property managers usually have a lot of applications to process, most have joined a specific tenant screening service. By having applicants fill out their screening consent with those services directly, they can save time and money and do the reviews more quickly.

Rental history, however, remains one aspect of tenant screening that is often done more successfully on a manual basis. For this reason, many apartment managers have admins that specifically work on tenant screening and tenant rental history verification when needed.

If you are a tenant applying for a unit at a specific apartment complex, remember that you will need to give your consent for this type of check to be done. Feel free to ask your landlord or property manager what type of service they will be using to check your information. Most will happily disclose this intel.

What if the individual is self-employed or part of the gig economy?

If they work as a freelancer, consultant, independent contractor, or run their own small business, you’ll want to ask for different documents. These include:

  • Bank statements –People who are self-employed may not receive pay stubs, but their bank statements from the past few months will show how much income they’re bringing in.
  • 1099s – Distributed to freelancers and contractors, a 1099 Form will show how much your prospective tenant was paid by a client. In aggregate, these tax documents can give you a sense of their total earnings for the previous year.

5. Ask to see the EPC

An EPC is an ‘Energy Performance Certificate’.  It lasts 10 years. If the landlord is legit, he or she should definitely have one. You can check to see if an EPC is legit using this online tool. There’s some guidance around EPCs from an official, legit site here. If the landlord doesn't have an EPC, gives you a fake, or doesn't know what an EPC is, you've found yourself an non-legit rental and non-legit landlord.

How to Write

Download in Adobe PDF, Microsoft Word (.docx), or Open Document Text (.odt).

1 – The Verification Form On This Page Should Be Saved To Your Computer

This template can be easily obtained using this page. Locate the buttons in the caption area of the preview picture or the links above. Determine what file type you would like to work with (PDF, WORD, or ODT) then select the button or link labeled with the file type you prefer.

2 – The Introduction Will Require Some Preparation

The first task this paperwork will require is the calendar date that should be associated with it. Use the first blank space on this page (labeled “Date”) to document the date of this document. 3 – The Landlord Must Answer Several QuestioLocate the first blank space after the greeting “To Whom This May Concern,” then use it to present the full name of the Tenant who has delivered the necessary consent to be verified by the Landlord. 3 – The Landlord Must Answer Several QuestioThe second blank space is reserved for the name of the individual (or entity) seeking information regarding the Tenant. Typically, this is the party responsible for requiring this paperwork. 3 – The Landlord Must Answer Several QuestioNow use the blank space after the words “…Located At” to record the Tenant Address that must be verified as his or her residence. 3 – The Landlord Must Answer Several QuestioNow, we must deliver a method the Landlord may use to return this document once he or she has filled it out. It is recommended you use the spaces after the phrase “…Please Send to Either” to report both a “Fax Number” and an “E-Mail” where the Landlord may submit this completed form. 3 – The Landlord Must Answer Several Questio

3 – The Landlord Must Answer Several Questions To Verify The Tenant

A simple list where the Landlord can quickly confirm the Tenant’s information has been supplied below the introduction. Only the Landlord receiving this inquiry may fill answer these questions. 4 – The Sender Of This Document Must SignThe first statement allows the Landlord to either confirm the Tenant’s residency or deny it. If the Landlord marks the “Yes” box, then he or she has confirmed the Tenant’s residency. If he or she marks the “No” box, then (as far as the Landlord knows) the Tenant does not live there. 4 – The Sender Of This Document Must SignThe second statement will require the Landlord report on the Tenant’s status with rent payments. Here, if the Tenant is up-to-date on such payments, then the “Yes” box will be marked. If not, then the “No” box will be selected. 4 – The Sender Of This Document Must SignNext, the Tenant’s ability to pay his or her rent on time in the last 12 months will be discussed. If he or she is up-to-date, then the Landlord will mark the “Yes” box. If the Tenant has been late with any rent payments (in the past year) then the “No” box should be marked, and the number of times entered on the blank line that follows. 4 – The Sender Of This Document Must SignIf the Tenant has been more than thirty days late in paying the Landlord his or her rent this will be indicated through the fourth question. If so, then the “Yes” box will be selected. 4 – The Sender Of This Document Must SignAny pets the Tenant keeps on his or her rented property will be reported in the fifth statement if the Landlord marks the “Yes” box. There will be a blank line in this area to so the number of, size of, and breed of the Tenant’s pets can be documented. If the Tenant has no pets this statement will be marked “No.” 4 – The Sender Of This Document Must SignNow in the sixth statement, the Landlord will need to report if he or she had to issue a notice (i.e. for late rent, damage, noncompliance) to the Tenant in the last year. If so, the “Yes” box should be marked and the reason for the notice should be reported on the blank space provided. Otherwise, the “No” box should be marked. 4 – The Sender Of This Document Must SignThe seventh statement will specifically request a report on whether the Landlord has had to deal with the Tenant damaging the property. A “Yes” box and “No” box along with a blank space to give a record on any such problems. 4 – The Sender Of This Document Must SignIf there have been any complaints aimed at the Tenant that the Landlord received, then this should be documented in the eighth statement (with a mark in the “Yes” box) and a history of the nature of the complaints provided on the blank space. Additionally, the Landlord can indicate if such complaints were resolved quickly or not by checking either the “Yes” or “No” box in the follow-up question. If no such complaints have been reported, the Landlord will have to mark the “No” box to this question and leave the remainder blank. 4 – The Sender Of This Document Must SignIf the Tenant has completed the terms of the lease signed with the Landlord, the next statement should have a mark in the “Yes” box. If not, this statement should have a mark in the “No” box. 4 – The Sender Of This Document Must SignThe Landlord will have to indicate if the Tenant is currently a resident who has recently given notice that he or she will be moving. The “Yes” box must be marked if so. Otherwise, the “No” box will need to have a mark in it. 4 – The Sender Of This Document Must SignThe next statement will require the Landlord to report if the Tenant was asked to vacate the premises by the Landlord or anyone in the Landlord’s company. This statement will bear a “Yes” mark if this is the case. If not, the “No” box should be selected. If so, notice there will also be room for a reason to be documented.4 – The Sender Of This Document Must SignThe issue of whether the Landlord had to withhold the Tenant’s deposit (or any part of) to pay for damages will be handled in the thirteenth statement. The “Yes” box will indicate that such an action was necessary while the “No” box would indicate this was not the case. 4 – The Sender Of This Document Must SignIf the Landlord is aware that the Tenant is moving and that this move is after a judicial eviction, then the “Yes” box in the fifteenth statement will be selected. Otherwise the “No” box will be marked. 4 – The Sender Of This Document Must SignA mark in the “Yes” box for the next statement will indicate the Landlord will rent to the Tenant in the future. If not, then the “No” box should be checked or marked.  4 – The Sender Of This Document Must SignIf the Tenant is moving and the Landlord has received payment for the last month of his or her tenancy, then the “Yes” box should be marked. If no payment was received, then the “No” box will be marked. 4 – The Sender Of This Document Must SignIf the Tenant owes the Landlord money, then the Landlord should mark the “Yes” box in the last question and report how much on the blank space on this line. If this is not the case, then the “No” box should be marked. 4 – The Sender Of This Document Must SignThis questionnaire will only be considered accurate if the Landlord or his or her official Representative signs the blank line labeled “Landlord’s (Or Representative’s) Signature and prints his or her name on the adjacent blank space. If the Landlord has sent this without such a signature, it is strongly recommended you make a follow-up inquiry with either the Landlord or the Tenant. 4 – The Sender Of This Document Must Sign

4 – The Sender Of This Document Must Sign

Once the introduction has been filled out, you will need to sign this letter before sending it. Sign the blank line labeled “Requestor’s Signature” and print your name on the “Print” line.   Bottom Line

Bottom Line

A renter needs to prove they can afford to rent your property. This is done when they submit documentation proof of their income. These documents are verified by the landlord to prevent fraud and to get a closer look at their finances, which help determine their suitability as a prospective tenant.


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