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9 Tips for Verifying References of Potential Tenants

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An important part of any interview process is obtaining references, but how do you know these references are legitimate?

Here are some helpful tips to ensure you’re getting honest renters!

1. Your First Point of Reference: Interviewing the Tenant
Always interview a potential tenant first before calling references.

Some critical questions to ask:

  • “What is your monthly income?” – Verify this information with their current boss.
  • “What are your monthly debt obligations?” – Verify by running a credit report after they sign a consent.
  • “What do you think your former boss (and/or landlord) will say about you?”

Specific questions like the above will help you notice any discrepancies between what the tenant says and what their former boss/landlord actually shares when you call them.

2. Find Your Own Contact Number
For employment references, instead of calling the number given by the tenant, Google the business name and then ask for a person in HR and/or your prospective tenant’s supervisor.

This will ensure that you have a legitimate reference to interview.

3. Use an Online Tenant Background Service
Double-check all the information a tenant has given you with an online tenant background service.

If they have supplied any incorrect information, this should be a red flag that their references may not be legitimate.

Any discrepancies with the background check are indications of a potentially deceptive tenant.

4. Confirmation
Ask every reference to confirm their relationship with the tenant.

If possible, have the reference send you an email from a business email address that matches with the business the tenant listed.

5. Always Call
Written references are much easier to forge by potential tenants, so always call!

Never rely solely on a letter.

Furthermore, there are many subtle clues that are lost when a reference is in writing.

You may not get the full tone of a comment, and you don’t have the opportunity to question something you’re unsure about.

6. Don’t Limit Yourself
You don’t have to exclusively call the references given by the prospective tenant.

Do your own investigating.

For example, go to their former residence and speak to their neighbors.

Leverage your own social circle; maybe someone you know and trust has known your candidate for a long time and can provide you with a candid reference.

7. Ask References for Additional References
Expand your circle even more by asking the references you speak to for more names of other references.

This will give you a variety of insights into the true nature and character of your applicant.

For example, you could say, “Thank you Mr. X for your time, can you please provide me with the contact information for another individual who has closely worked with my applicant?”

Then start contacting these secondary references to verify what you have already learned.

8. Check Public Records
If the landlord reference is an individual and not part of a management company, be sure to check public records to ensure that the landlord is who they say they are.

9. Read Between the Lines
Omitted information is very telling, so always look for any blank sections on the application.

When an applicant knowingly does not provide a former employer or former landlord on an application, it’s probably a red flag.

To encourage them to complete this section, consider asking for at least two former bosses and two former landlords.

Their current landlord may be trying to get rid of them, so it’s always better to speak with a former landlord.

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