can't verify past landlord and current employer for applicant

16 Replies

Hi guys,

Thanks a lot for all of you to taking time to help.

I am a newbie landlord  and just had my first applicant for my newly renovated first property.

She looks great on paper. She has a good high paying job and everything else looks good.

I also called to employer and past landlord and also bought Rentprep(background check company) package where they call to verify employment and past landlord as well.

But problem is she just lived at one apartment complex for 7-8 years and when I called them 2 times and left message, I am not getting any callback. Rentprep also called them 3 times but no response.

For her employment, I talked to person applicant gave me a number on application. She did confirm that she works there but can't disclose more info and I have to call corporate number. When rentprep called corporate number, they said according to their policy, they can not disclose this information.( She did provided last 2 paystubs)

Any advice in this situation? Does any of you had this problem before? How did you navigate to it?

Any help is greatly appreciated. 

If the person at her place of employment did verbally confirm that the applicant works there, what else do you need? Also, you might always want to look up the places of employment yourself and call the number you find rather than the number that is provided to you by the applicant.

Hi @Neerav Patel . In my experience, apartment complexes are generally slow to respond to requests to verify rental history. It's a losing proposition from their perspective: If the tenant is halfway decent, they're likely going to lose them to you!

Given that, I make this the problem of the tenant. I encourage them to unleash their inner beast and to relentlessly pester the property manager until they take the 5 minutes required to complete and send over our Verification of Rent form. We've never had a serious prospect who wasn't able to get their complex to eventually get the required info over to us.

I’m not sure that most employers will give out that information.

You should keep trying to call the apartment complex or her former landlord. Sometimes it takes many tries to get it.

I just had a tenant where it took almost 2 weeks to get that information from her former landlord. I was thinking of renting to her without it, but my Pm suggested that I don’t. I listened and they got the info (finally after driving over there in person) and they rented to her. She’s been a good tenant so far.

@Mitch Messer Thanks for your input. So are you recommending that I should let tenant bug property manager to get back to me via phone?

@Caleb Heimsoth Thanks for update. Your recommendation is I should not move forward until I get info from past landlord , right?

And another question is, what if somebody else apply for property meanwhile? Should I still process their application and see who's info comes back first or wait for current applicant to finish landlord verification?

@Neerav Patel yes that’s right.  If someone else applies, gets approved and you get all the information from them first before getting this other information back, then go with the other applicant.  If they both come back at the same time, unit goes to whoever gives you deposit first 

So I agree with that is said above. If the tenant wants the house they need to ride the complex to make sure they get the forms. Else I tell the applicate that I am moving on to the next one till she gets all her stuff in.

We get 3 months worth of pay stubs and ask for bank statements. For 2 reasons, one we want to do an auto draft using Cozy.co (free landlord app) and 2nd I want to see how their money moves. If it is always overdrawn and they cant manage their money it's likely they won't pay on time, and it'll tell me how they will treat my house. 

When we call the employer we make sure to call the number listed online, as it's not uncommon for them to give you a friends number and answer for them. If the company won't answer the questions I fax the release if they still won't, I let the applicate know I need this information and can move forward once they get that to me, and then I move on. 

The other bit I use, is that I never decline anyone, you cant get sued if everyone is approved, I just make the deposit 3x, 5x or 10x the rent. Which means they likely can't come up with the deposit amount and I move to the next one. If somehow they have the cash, I will have enough to sue them and get them out and fix my house.  

We rarely bother with checking past landlords any more. They never call back and could just as easily be a plant by a prospective applicant. We do a good credit, background, and eviction check. The funny thing we've learned is that, in general, people tend to live up to their billing. Someone with great credit - and I mean from their actual credit, not some generic score - decent employment, no criminal record, no evictions, they have tended to be our best tenants. The worst tenants - and I say this with some trepidation, because we really haven't had any bad ones, just degrees of better or worse - tended to have some missed payments, flaky job history, etc. Virtually all felonies and all evictions are automatic disqualifiers for us, and students without their own employment and financial means have to have parent co-signers. 

Bottom line: if you've verified her employment, done your credit/background/eviction checks and they're clean, and she is not borderline on income requirements, I wouldn't worry too much about the landlord check. Think about it this way: how many landlords do you know that run shoddy businesses? I know/know of a lot of them. Do I really want the opinion of some other lousy landlord? One that can't be bothered returning your calls? You're a professional - if a former tenant listed you, and the place called you, would you return the call? There's your answer. 

@JD Martin great insights. That questions puts things to perspective. Now since this is my first time, I did rentprep's credit check, not full credit report which just gave pass or fail result. Applicant did pass. Since I can't check missed payments, do you still recommend moving forward? and for future reference, can you recommend credit check service that you use?

@Josh Anderson Thanks for Detailed response Josh. I really liked your concept about not declining but hiking security deposit. From searching online, I was able to verify from 2 different websites that she in fact works at that place with same position that she mentioned on application.

Originally posted by @Neerav Patel :

@JD Martin great insights. That questions puts things to perspective. Now since this is my first time, I did rentprep's credit check, not full credit report which just gave pass or fail result. Applicant did pass. Since I can't check missed payments, do you still recommend moving forward? and for future reference, can you recommend credit check service that you use?

@Josh Anderson Thanks for Detailed response Josh. I really liked your concept about not declining but hiking security deposit. From searching online, I was able to verify from 2 different websites that she in fact works at that place with same position that she mentioned on application.

 I use Smart move because I want to see their actual credit lines, accounts, balances, etc. That comes from TransUnion. I'm a USAA member so there's a discount there. Sometimes Smart Move will give a "recommend accept" on a report, but I'll look and see they're fairly maxed out on a number of credit lines which just portends trouble down the road. We've had people with low credit scores, but their credit was perfect other than a couple of discharged medical issues, and we've had people with high scores but with almost all of their revolving credit maxed out. 

In any case, assuming you're not renting out the TaJ Mahal or living in a state where it takes a year to evict someone, it's just a house. If they have a decent job they're probably not going to go Spinal Tap on your home or fail to pay the rent. If they do, you kick them out and you're smarter the next time around :)

Be sure to check your state laws before following Josh's advice. Many states specify the amount you are allowed to charge for a deposit.

Originally posted by @Sylvia B. :

Be sure to check your state laws before following Josh's advice. Many states specify the amount you are allowed to charge for a deposit.

Ditto.  Can get you into hot water as far as Fair Housing Act as well. 

@Neerav Patel some times it is hard to get previous landlords to respond, so I don't make that an automatic disqualifier. If it is an apartment complex, I usually do a Google search and look for a leasing phone number or leasing e-mail address. Sometimes the leasing number is different than the number the tenant provided and gets better response. Another thing to check is address on credit report and address on drivers license. If both those match the apartment complex, you know they were living there. Most apartment complex will evict people if they don't pay rent, so it is fair to assume if they were there 7-8 years that they were not horrible.

As far as employer, you did verify employment. I would consider having the employer say they work there, combined with two pay stubs sufficient information. 

I would just verify credit report and you should be fine. 

@Neerav Patel

What I do in addition to the Income Verification, Credit Check, Eviction and Criminal Background checks is to ask for at least the 3 most recent Bank Statements of the Account that the prospective tenants had paid their current Landlord.

I need to see that they are up to date on their rent payments. It is especially important for the latest rent to be paid because if they are looking for an apt because they are on the verge of being evicted, the first thing a tenant will do is stop paying rent.

So I always look to see if they have their rent checks or drafts taking out of their bank account and to make sure it's going to the Landlord.

It may be considered a bit extreme, but I am in NYC big pro-tenant City! Can't be too careful!

Also, I completely discount anything positive from a current Landlord. I can imagine that the first thing a Landlord that is being taken for a ride to do is to give a great recommendation just to get rid of the tenant! Pass on the problem to someone else.

So I don't think you can be overly paranoid here!

Originally posted by @Nicole A. :

If the person at her place of employment did verbally confirm that the applicant works there, what else do you need? Also, you might always want to look up the places of employment yourself and call the number you find rather than the number that is provided to you by the applicant.

 I once had such an issue with a questionable applicant. She dressed like a banker, had paystubs to show, but I had doubts with her honesty. She listed the name of her supervisor on the application and the phone number, I called, and the supervisor confirmed she worked there. But he was somewhat hesitant in answering some questions, easy ones, so I dug further.

She gave me the address and phone number of the office she worked at. That was some years ago, and I cannot locate it in the phone book. It so happened my brother in law worked for the bank, and he tells me I can call a certain number in HR, if I had the exact name, SS#, they'll confirm she either works there now, or ever worked there, but no more. Any further info, must be submitted in writing, and they have to get the employee OK to release. My brother in law said he'll go to HR and check for me.

My brother in law got back to me. The reason why I can't find anything in the phone book was the bank never had an office at the location. HR has no record of her either. Back then, I don't normally do eviction checks, and I did one, found she had an eviction on file even though she said on the application she was never evicted.

What I do is I don't include address info in my ads back then, people have to call and I chat with them, casually, but I mark every thing down. Then when they show up, I ask the same questions, and in this case, the answers were different. But she looked and acted like a banker, if every thing checked out, I would've rented to her.

@Sylvia B. @Nancy P. Thank you so much for a heads up. There is actually law here in PA that stops landlord for charging more than 2 months rent as a security deposit

@Joe Splitrock thanks Joe for your input. So I ended up checking and confirming apartment address and checked on her drivers licence which did match for few yrs. Thanks for that tip.

@Llewelyn A. @Frank Chin Thanks a lot for your help.

So I ended up approving her, but even though I told her that I can only hold place for 2 weeks after approval earlier(which she was fine before) , she told me she will only accept it if I hold place until her lease is up which is 1.5 months, which I declined.

I did got another applicant after that and they do seem promising. I will return to all of your wisdom , when I am again in midst of confusion.

I sincerely want to thank you everyone who participated and biggerpockets for creating this awesome platform

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