Screening Issues: Unresponsive landlords and dealing with "The Work Number" for VOE

18 Replies

Hello, I'm going through my first screening process with potential tenants. I have come across a couple issues. One poor applicant is having both. I have tried multiple times to reach the property management company. I seem to either get hung up on before I can even talk to anyone (they pick up, I hear them chatting in the background, then hangup without saying anything) or I leave voicemails that do not get returned. I also now have 2 applicants where their job's HR department refuses to speak with me and direct me to www.TheWorkNumber.com for a VOE. Now this site charges you $27.95 or $34.95 to access the information each time you verify an applicant. One poor couple is experiencing both issues. One of their main complaints for moving is poor property management. I can see why. Has anyone experienced this? I feel like it is justifiable reason to disqualify the applicant since I am unable to verify. But seems wrong because it is not their fault. I would like to hear other landlord's opinions. Thank you for taking time to read.

I had to deal with theworknumber.com once and it was a pain. I wound up getting a direct supervisor to respond at the company they worked for as they put them down as a personal reference.  I was only assuming minimum wage anyway for the applicant so there was no need to verify wage amount only that they did work there full time.    I just thought it was ridiculous to charge so much to say yes this employee works for us. It was also easier to get the supervisor and get more relevant information. 

For property management I can't say I have had non-returned calls often. 

I have a company that is set up to manage my own rentals in Oklahoma. However, I use a local real estate and Property Management company here in Orlando for local rentals. I cannot imagine keeping that Property Manager around, document what you are experiencing and fire them. They are costing you money if your tenants are leaving. Obviously, if you have a contractual agreement in place run this by your attorney. 

As to screening potential tenants, I leave the legwork to the tenants. If their previous, or current, Property Manager will not speak with me then I will ask them for a letter or to inform the PM or company they need them to. If they refuse, then I turn them away as I do require a good reference and decent credit. In my experience, tenants with good references are on good terms with their landlords and have a good reason for moving. These type of tenants typically don't have an issue getting a reference on themselves. If the tenants credit is a bit rough I ask them for additional deposits. I know this sounds tough, but my tenants and I get along very well. I take care of ALL issues asap and I simply expect them to be good custodians of the property and pay their rent on time. Good luck to you.

Can you accept paystubs provided by the applicant instead of going through the employment verification site?  As far as the rental verification goes, that's a tough one.  I'd continue trying to reach them via email, phone, fax, maybe even stop by in person if the office is near you.  

Originally posted by @Curtis Yoder :

"I have a company that is set up to manage my own rentals in Oklahoma. However, I use a local real estate and Property Management company here in Orlando for local rentals. I cannot imagine keeping that Property Manager around, document what you are experiencing and fire them. They are costing you money if your tenants are leaving. Obviously, if you have a contractual agreement in place run this by your attorney. "

No this is not my Property Management company. I do my own property management. Atleast for now. I am trying to contact the current property manager and I get no response. I went on google to research them and there are many complaints. Thank you for the information.

I refuse to work with "the work number" they are a joke.  This seems like a way for the HR dept. to pass the buck.  there are other ways to verify employment without dealing with them.  

Originally posted by @Rhett Tullis :

I refuse to work with "the work number" they are a joke.  This seems like a way for the HR dept. to pass the buck.  there are other ways to verify employment without dealing with them.  

 I completely agree

If the perspective tenant wants to rent from you, they will do what they need to do to get information released. My last applicant was a Resident Physician and verifying income was difficult, as they are not paid by the hospital directly, but through another company, but she did the legwork to get me the person to contact. She also provided pay stubs.

I have dealt with difficult property managers as well, (company that rented to my tenant sold to another company). It was a pain, but, once they realized I wasn't going to quit bothering them until they released the information, they gave me what I needed. What it boiled down to was that they were too lazy to look it up and it was easier to put me off, until it wasn't anymore. ;)

Originally posted by @Rhett Tullis :

I refuse to work with "the work number" they are a joke.  This seems like a way for the HR dept. to pass the buck.  there are other ways to verify employment without dealing with them.  

 Such as....?

worknumber is a pain. Some employers outsource to isolate liability. You can ask the applicant about worknumber before you decide to send them to a background check. If they say yes. Tell them you are thinking about it. Then wait for a new applicant. In other words pass them up.

often you can get the contact info for their immediate supervisor to talk to.  also check stubs often give start dates.  you can try calling hr a few times.  sometimes you get someone willing to help you out.  another option is to charge the applicant for the access to this system.  it is a pain and really not very helpful in my opinion.  

My whole issue with TheWorknumber is that every time there is some code that needs to be entered that's impossible to get, the employee and even employer doesn't know what the missing code is…the last time I tried to use it, it was asking me for a salary key on the second screen, after I had successfully entered the employee applicant’s social security number and their employer’s company code. I had already talked to the Florida and Illinois locations of the company my tenant applicant worked for to get their company’s worknumber info, but no one gave me a salary key. Called each location back and said the Worknumber was asking for a salary key. They didn't know what I was talking about...when I challenged them, they said that I needed to talk to the HR Manager of that applicants location, who was on vacation until next week...which turns out WAS my tenant applicant! Now of course by that point I knew for sure the guy worked there, but after all the problems I had had using TheWorknumber before, I kept going...turns out this HR Manager/tenant applicant had to create his salary key in order to give it to me. Had my applicant turned out to NOT be the HR manager he would have been SOL.

Do I ask for and look at pay stubs? Absolutely. Have I seen people modify PDFs without leaving a trace it’s been edited, even when I know what they edited and where to look? Yes.

Unfortunately, because of the problems and extra costs involved with using the Work Number. I have decided to automatically disqualify any future applicants using this. I will make exceptions and ask them to speak to their employer to allow me to contact them and give me the necessary information I need to complete the screening. I am not sure if this is "Legal Grounds" to disqualify someone, maybe someone with more knowledge can comment on this. Luckily, in Tampa there are so many renters and not enough rentals, that I can do this and not affect me. It may be different in other areas. I check both the pay stub and call the employer. And I usually don't call the number the applicant provides me on the application. I research the company on Google and call using the phone number i find there. Just in case.

Just my 2 cents...I strongly dislike (just short of hate) TheWorkNumber...lol & from the posts here, I see many have the same sentiments....lol.

Fortunately you're in a market where you have an abundance of renters, which is a good thing. As a landlord, you do have the right & ability to pick & choose who you want to rent to within the confines of Fair Housing guidelines and your goal is to get the best tenant into the property. I'm not an attorney, so I don't know the legal ramifications of denying applications on those grounds, but the work number is fairly new to the industry.

In the past as a property manager, I've accepted bank statements, check stubs, Paypal statements, etc. to verify income & in some instances rather than using the work number to verify employment, the pay-stubs or direct deposits from bank statements have doubled as employment verification, but this was a rare case where we needed to get units filled to avoid holding costs.

What the landlords did to "offset the concession" is require more money upfront. Like 2 months of rent in advance in addition to the deposit because employment was unable to be verified.

@Luis Pereiro @Adilah Curry Do you guys hate it because it costs more, or because no one knows what all the codes are and/or you cant get the darn thing to work??

I cannot imagine not allowing people who's employers use the Work Number. All the largest companies around by us use it. I wonder if thats' a fair housing violation....Work Number isn't source of income, it's a source of income verification.  

@Kimberly H. That's a great question! I've never denied anyone because of the difficulty of using the Work Number. As a matter of fact the  tenants that have had employers that do use the Work Number, I've made an extra effort to work around that hurdle & I've always been able to approve 100% of them & they turn out to be great tenants :). Personally, I wouldn't want to let a tenant walk because of a hurdle such as that and many times prospective tenants have their heart set on a property.

I think the problem is a combination of both the cost & the fact that it's very "user unfriendly". Many landlords have an established expense budget that they want to stay within. The client that I worked with at the time (a property management firm in Indianapolis) would not cover the cost and most  of the property owners/ landlords didn't want to cover the cost either. 

To me, it seemed, in theory, like a simple thing to pay in order to streamline the process & get good tenants into the property in the shortest amount of time to avoid holding costs (if any) or negative cash flow....or just plain losing a tenant.  If it were my personal decision, I would have paid the fee and passed the cost along to the tenant. If it meant moving a tenant into the property, I would've bitten the bullet & dealt with the The Work Number regardless of my feelings towards it. Thankfully, I always found a way around it :)

Employment verification and landlord references are important, but they are clearly secondary to credit score. If someone has a great credit score you are probably ok with not getting the landlord reference or employment verification as this person has shown a history of paying on time. If you have a tenant with a great score, don't lose them because you can't get the verifications. If your tenant has poor credit it is much more important to get the landlord and employment verifications. If the tenant has poor credit, and you can't get the verifications, I would move on to someone else. It's rarely worth the risk.

I attend the Transunion Tenant Screening conference every year. Here are the results of their predictive credit model. You can use their score or any other bureau through one of their products or get the FICO score from a lot of providers. They are very similar. These numbers show the risk of rental default based on the applicants score and the income to rent ratio. As you can see, the score is the best predictor of rental performance, even more so than income...

Originally posted by @Luis Pereiro :

Hello, I'm going through my first screening process with potential tenants. I have come across a couple issues. One poor applicant is having both. I have tried multiple times to reach the property management company. I seem to either get hung up on before I can even talk to anyone (they pick up, I hear them chatting in the background, then hangup without saying anything) or I leave voicemails that do not get returned. I also now have 2 applicants where their job's HR department refuses to speak with me and direct me to www.TheWorkNumber.com for a VOE. Now this site charges you $27.95 or $34.95 to access the information each time you verify an applicant. One poor couple is experiencing both issues. One of their main complaints for moving is poor property management. I can see why. Has anyone experienced this? I feel like it is justifiable reason to disqualify the applicant since I am unable to verify. But seems wrong because it is not their fault. I would like to hear other landlord's opinions. Thank you for taking time to read.

I'll do my best to verify income/employment history, rental/housing history, credit history, legal history, personal references, etc. As we know, not all other parties are as cooperative or as responsive as we would like them to be. Since I'm looking at the whole applicant package, I don't get stuck by a road block such as TheWorkNumber, I just work around it.  

I start by letting the applicant know the importance of my ability to quickly and easily verify the information on their application. I ask them to notify their employer, previous landlord, and personal references that I will be calling them for this purpose and to please take my call. I telephone the number the applicant gave me and I also call into the company by contact information found in public records, to make sure the number and contact person information given to me is legit. 

I routinely request paycheck stubs, benefit award letters, banking information, and other documentation to backup what I'm able verify by phone. I google the names of applicants; I check court records online; I run background checks through an independent company that checks credit history and legal history.

Large employers and large property management companies are some of the hardest to work with. If the applicant is cooperative and does everything a reasonable person could do to help me verify their information, I wouldn't turn them down because of this. If I felt the need, I might require a higher security deposit to cover my risk. The important thing for me is to examine the whole package and make the best decision I can with the information I'm able to obtain at the time.