It's a landlord's worst nightmare. A solid tenant gets placed in a rental and 30 days later the rent doesn't come in. How is this possible? You placed a doctor with a 900 FICO score!
It's simple really. He's not a doctor, and you've been scammed.
Since our founding in 2009, Mesa Properties has screened thousands of applicants. Every single week, applicants attempt to scam us (key word attempt). We've seen it all. From fake drivers licenses to a boyfriend posing as a landlord, scams happen all the time. Here is a list of the top 5 scams we've seen so far.
1. Fake Identification
This is the most threatening scam of them all. If an applicant gets through using a fake ID, you're in trouble. It means they are occupying your home with the intent to do damage. In our experience a fake ID usually means someone is using the property to make drugs, or to occupy the property as long as possible without paying.
After all, filing an eviction and garnishing wages becomes much more complicated if you don't know what someone's name is.
2. Fraudulent Pay Stubs
This is a very common scam that gets caught by our application processing department. Making a fake pay stub is surprisingly easy to do. Just check out this website that will do it for you!
Some of the fake pay stubs are obvious. There might be something that is glaringly wrong with the document. Sometimes it's a crooked logo, sometimes it's mismatched fonts, sometimes the math doesn't add up. That being said, not all fake pay stubs are easy to catch.
The ability to catch a fake pay stub is a skill that takes time to develop. However, due to the recent advancements in fake pay stub software, even the most skilled processor cannot catch all of the fakes. Therefore, employment verification is required to ensure all frauds are stopped.
3. Fraudulent Employment History
When screening applications, one of the most important steps is to make sure that the employer checks out. This is done by making sure the company actually exists, and that the applicant actually works there.
On numerous occasions, we have called a real company only to find out that the applicant does not actually work there. We have also run into applicants that will make up their own company with their own made-up websites.
Further analysis and asking the right questions proves to be quite effective in catching these clever scams.
4. Fraudulent Rental History
Landlord verification is an owner's best friend. At the same time, counterfeit landlord verification is a scam artist's favorite tool. On more than one occasion, we have revealed that an applicant's previous landlord is just the boyfriend pretending to be someone he's not.
A false landlord verification is dangerous because it gives a false sense of security. Many landlords are willing to overlook other red flags because a supposed previous landlord said, "They are awesome tenants! Always paid on time, and left the house better than they found it!"
5. Fraudulent Service Animals
This is a common issue that is more of a nuisance than a danger. More and more we are seeing pets being claimed as service dogs or emotional support animals. Legally, no extra security deposit or pet rent can be charged for these special pet animals.
However, not all emotional support animals are created equal. There are fake service animals out there that are being used by tenants in order to save money.
This scam results in an untrained service animal being in your house with no security deposit to cover any extra damages. This can result in a huge bill when the tenant moves out.
In order to avoid this situation, we use PetScreening.com to handle nearly all of Mesa Properties pet screenings. They are a great service that we use to legally screen all pets. They ensure that pet screening is done in accordance with fair housing laws. They are also great at catching fake service animals.
If you are interested in more information about service animals and their legal requirements, check out this resource.
Fair Housing Makes Everything Complicated
We live in a litigious system. Everyone is suing everyone. This applies to every aspect of life, and it especially applies to housing.
According to federal fair housing laws, there are only certain reasons a landlord can deny housing to someone. Scam artists know this, and are more than willing to take advantage of it. Another trick that we see, is when an applicant threatens to bring suit against a landlord for illegitimate purposes.
Nearly every week Mesa Properties is threatened with a lawsuit. Applicants say something along the lines of:
"I swear that pay stub is real. If you don't accept my application, you will hear from my lawyer."
If you find yourself in this situation, just remember that lying on a rental application is legitimate reason for denial.
If you suspect that an applicant is lying to you, we suggest that you ask them for clarification. You must be able to collect enough evidence of the lie for it to stand up in a court of law. After all, fair housing lawsuits can get really expensive.
Mesa's Screening Process
Mesa Properties has an extensive application screening process. The average application takes anywhere from 3 to 5 business days to process. It takes us so long because we verify literally everything. Current landlord, previous landlord, employer, income, pay stubs, the list goes on.
In an average month, we find that anywhere from twenty to thirty percent of all applicants provide us with some sort of falsified documents or references. It always makes our day when we catch a scam artist. Alas, they never fail to leave us a one star Yelp review.
And, when they don't leave us a one star Yelp review, they nearly always threaten to sue us. That my friend, is the great part about being in the business of property management.
If you would like to get yourself out of the business of property management, please feel free to give us a call. Let us find you a legitimate tenant that is not a fraud. We've gained a lot of experience in the past decade and we've gotten quite good at catching the scam artist before they ever get to your front door.