Tenant 500 miles away wants to rent sight unseen...new job

29 Replies

This is my question.   What is the best way to have him send first and last months rent?  Overnight mail?  FedEx?    My plan was to have him email back signed lease, then send back hard copy of signed lease with check in overnight mail.   (By the way, is overnight mail really overnight?)   There is a lot of interest in this property, but I see his reason for taking it fast.  (He does not have a car and his employer -- a university -- is right up the street.)

I am a rookie landlord and never encountered this before.   FYI, he gave me his full name and current employer and all that.    I just want to know the best and fastest way to get papers and the rent.


@kate b. I would be very careful their are alot of scams. I would contact the university directly to verify his employment.

Honestly for the amount of risk that this entails I would not rent to him. Find a local applicant.

Do you have a completed application form? Have you run a credit check? Do you have evidence of photo ID?

Personally I would never rent to someone sight unseen. You have to assess their character and get a sense of what a landlord-tenant relationship would be like with them. I see this as a risky situation. There are tenants without this drama and it should not be hard to find them. If you are a new landlord you should be risk averse unless you have lots of money for lawyers fees, to unpaid rent and intervening mortgage payments, etc. Be careful.

Make sure you run credit and verify all sources of income etc. Then email the lease and have him overnight the app fees and deposit in certified funds.  That will 'hold' the property.  When he gets in town, he can pay the prorated rent in certified funds as well.

There are a lot of scams so be careful. Definitely verify employment with the university. I'd also want to do a Skype interview so as to be able to assess demeanor a little better than over the phone. Overnight mail is overnight & typically costs about $20.

Thanks for all the great advice.

Renting it for June tenancy this late in May was a whim.   I almost went with July 1.  I don't feel I have risked much doing it the way I have.   His extensive Linked in profile fit what he told me and what I researched.   What he said also fit with the university that's his new employer -- I am an alum.  I did not put any money out.   I will know a lot if he does what I asked him to do:  provide first and last months rent in advance (covering me for 60 days if he bails) and provide security deposit when he arrives.   I haven't risked anything except canceling appointments with people who wanted to see it.  I also told him if he does not email back signed lease ASAP, I will continue with all scheduled appointments with prospective tenants.

My main concern was how to get docs and rent fast which can remove more risk.

Thanks again for all the great insights shared!

Why not have him pay rent electronically (using PayPal's free option or one of the many other free/cheap options)?

In my experience, "overnight" by USPS is not always overnight.  They will tell you before you ship when they expect it to get there.  I've shipped "overnight" to a rural location halfway across the country and overnight is usually 2-3 days depending on what time of day I mail it.

I've rented to people transferring for new jobs/school sight-unseen in the past and have never had an issue with it.  It sounds like you've researched this person well enough to know they are legitimate and they are sending you money not asking you for it.  It doesn't sound like something to walk away from as others have alluded to.  Just figure out how to make it work and be happy you don't have to show it anymore!

"Just figure out how to make it work and be happy you don't have to show it anymore!"

That's exactly my thinking.   Thanks!

I have to look into the electronic free options.  I forgot, since nearly all my tenants want to pay cash.

You can get a signed lease electronically scanned and followup with returning the original. Me I would send a PDF version of the document with his information already entered  (after the background/credit check)  and ask him to scan signed version to you and  express mail the original with the checks.  If you want to be extra careful you can ask for certified checks especially since move in may be before the check clears.

Thanks Colleen.  He's paying as of June 1, but not coming until mid June.   I made him pay for whole month (since that's what I advertised and it seemed very likely I'd find someone who would).  So the check will come before he does, or neither will come.

NEXT time I will say certified check, but I didn't think of that and already told him how to do it.  I have to start writing all these things down.   I got some great advice from people here.


I did this when I moved to San Diego for graduate school.

I FEDEXed a personal check for Deposit + First & Last.  These days, I hear there are apps that can transfer money quite easily (Venmo etc) although apparently I'm on the old end of the Millennial spectrum and thus no longer understand technology.

I'm glad that you did the research to make sure this was legit.  I also wanted to thank you for keeping an open mind with this applicant as someone did with me 4 years ago.  Hope it all works out!

@Kate B.

I hope this works out for you.  Please let us know what happens.

@Kate B. , I have twice rented to people from out of town who had seen only pictures of the houses. In the second case, the people had a friend in town come to see the property on their behalf. If you can get them to send a representative like that, it's far preferable.

In both cases, these were nice families, and everything worked out fine. As always, I ran them through a screening service and checked rental history and employment. I accept a personal check for a deposit when people sign a lease, but that's usually a month or more before the tenancy begins. With such short timing a cashier's check or electronic payment seems necessary.

I have never found it necessary to require guaranteed funds. With well-screened tenants, I always think that if the deposit check bounces, then you're not going to let them move in. If the deposit check doesn't bounce, I don't have any reason to think the first month's rent check will.

Originally posted by @Colleen F. :

... If you want to be extra careful you can ask for certified checks especially since move in may be before the check clears.

Certified checks can have a stop payment placed, so they can be declined in that manner. And certified checks clear through the banking system like any other check, so an out of state check can take longer. You do know that the funds were drawn already to cover the amount of the certified check, so it won't come back NSF. 

@Steve Babiak   for certified I haven't used them in regards to rent  but some other things where they seem to clear quicker then other checks.  it is good to know they can have stop payment. 

I would say the out of state check clearing is not something I have found to be an issue recently.  I have a NJ bank account with an MA address and use those checks in RI or elsewhere without any delay in clearing. Out of state student checks haven't taken any longer then the in state ones to clear. So I think that is issue is not so frequent anymore.

Another option would be money orders, there is no way to stop payment on them. I rent sight unseen several times a year, and it works just fine as long as you screen thoroughly. 

make your life easier and say no to out of state potential renters. some are scammers but most are just wasting your time with long letters they copy and paste to multiple landlords.

Electronic payment is the best way to handle this. I frequently rent to folks from out of town and actually prefer them, because they are usually moving because of a move up in employment. It goes without saying you have vetted their application. Sight unseen is not such a problem. Google maps will tell them about the exterior and you supply show them the interior.

For all payments I use erentpayment.com and I love it. They can pay application fee, deposit, and set up recurring monthly payments. Their customer service is excellent. It also allows you to pull reports at anytime to aee who has/ has not paid as well as year end accounting. 

I don't have any affiliation  with ErentpaymenI other than I am a satisfied customer. Regardless of which company you use if you want to run a 21st century business you need to accept electronic payments. 

Originally posted by @Matt Clark :

Another option would be money orders, there is no way to stop payment on them. ...

False; see item 11 at next link:


@Steve Babiak   You can NOT stop a payment on the certified check!  Only if you wait 90 to 120days after the date of issue, and only if it had not been cashed in yet by then, i know it sound stupid but that is the rule.  So here my story: 

I had one of our applicants gave us a "holding deposit" in certified check and changed her mind about the unit. So she had tried to "report lost" the Certified check, and guess what BOA told her? It turn out It is nearly impossible to cancel a Certified Check! She would have to wait 3-4 months AND only THAN she can cancel the check. 

So she ended up begging me for money back and since the market was hot I let it go minus the aps. fee obviously, and in return she filled me in on the details, and i also called BOA and what do you know you have to wait months to stop a payment on a Bank Certified Instrument. 

I also rented to techies and students renting sight-unseen from out of state or even out of the country.  I just emailed them the contract, and they overnighted a signed contract with payment, normally just a personal check.

If you've vetted the new job, you'll know where to go for his money, if he writes a bad check.  And if you ran his credit and everything else looks good, I wouldn't worry about the check.

I even overnighted a key to one young couple who anticipated arriving at 3am or so on a redeye flight from Atlanta.  Nope, I wasn't going to wait around to see when their flight arrives from 3am to who-knows-when LOL.

Originally posted by @Val Csontos :

@Steve Babiak  You can NOT stop a payment on the certified check!  Only if you wait 90 to 120days after the date of issue, and only if it had not been cashed in yet by then, i know it sound stupid but that is the rule.  ...

... what do you know you have to wait months to stop a payment on a Bank Certified Instrument. 

Sounds like you contradict yourself in the same post. First you say it can NOT be done, then say it isn't easy. The reality is that when it can be done, it isn't easy; I originally never said it would be easy, I just said it was possible. 

Personally I would not get involved with out of state people unless they came on a trip to see the place first, and I got to meet everyone who would be on the lease. I've read stories where tenants rented sight unseen and then were unhappy either with the house or the demographics of the neighborhood once they moved in, and tried to get out of the lease.

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