Tenant Lied On Rental App. Would you Rent to them?

42 Replies

Question: Would you rent to someone who gave you a false contact for their current Landlord?

Background (Story): Potential Tenant looks at place, Likes it, fills out application, and wants to move right in. I call the references and check the background. All good. Last thing I do is call their current landlord. I look up the address in the local tax base and notice it is an LLC with 5 properties [all of them in the rougher parts of town]. I then call Amy (the landlord/manager?) No answer. I leave a message. An hour later I get a call back. It's Amy (from the number I called, so far so good). I ask the typical questions everything sounds good. At most they are a day or two late with the rent. blah blah blah. During this time as I ask more probing questions she starts to cough, says she has something in her throat.

Then I ask: So is the only property you own. 

Amy: ahh yeah (hmm, LLC owns 5 properties) .[hacking picks up]

Me:Oh how long? 

Amy: A couple of years. (this doesn't match the LLC records). [we are really coughing hard now]

Me: Do you have it setup in an LLC?

Amy: A What? [she is now hacking uncontrollably] I will have to call you back, can't talk.

So at this point, I'm guessing I'm being played with. So to verify I goto the other houses owned by the LLC and ask for the landlord/manager's number. 3 house I get the number. Find out it's a management company. I call Bob the contact, no answer. He say's for real estate questions call Dawn. I leave a message and call Dawn. No answer. Leave a message.

Hour or 2 later I hear from Dawn. I explain the situation and she tells me that she didn't know they moving out. That they pay on time mostly, but have been about 5 days late twice. She hasn't had any problems with them and that they were really nice. However, they haven't paid this month and they were about to post notice next week. Also that they took over management of the unit at the beginning of the year, she doesn't know of any specific problems but she hasn't ever been in the house. The city was there when they took over for the city rental inspection and that Bob had been in to fix a maintenance issue the previous month. I could call him for how clean they were. I thank her. 

Ok, Now I'm curious. Why give a false landlord contact when it wasn't that bad. (so far) They could pay the rent as my rent was $50 more then their current. They already gave 1 month rent with the application. Any if approved, the have the other 2 months in cash. 

So I call the tenant, say I know you lied, however they gave you a good recommendation so I will rent to you. I can stop by their current home (this way if it's a mess I say Sorry NO) in 15 mins for the rest of the money. 

As I'm driving there, Bob calls me. Tells me how they have destroyed the house. Holes in wall, disgusting inside. When they took over from the other management company, they did a walk through and told the owner all the work needed once they move out. Owner said let them stay, as they can't do more damage then already is. Bob then tells me how they are always late. They never pay the late fees which are in the hundreds. I thank him as I finish the conversation outside the house. 

So, the moment of truth. I don't mention Bob's call and listen the tenants story. They explain how they have been having water issues in the basement and no body wants to fix it. I go inside and the kitchen and bath are clean except the kitchen smells moldy. A drawer face is off a drawer in the kitchen. But it's clean otherwise. No bags of trash.  Bedrooms have clutter but also moving boxes. Now the basement smells like sewer, and the sheetrock walls are all covered in mold. as are the lower parts of 2 couches.  Basement stairs are off the kitchen. 

 I'm getting $50 over market rate, for a house with no OSP and Gun shots a couple of times a year a few blocks away. It's a double block with thin walls to the otherside. 

So would you rent to this person?

There would be a number of reasons not to rent to this individual, both legally and economically. If your lease required truth in answering the questions, failure to enforce such a provision could cause you to have waived a number of other rights and obligations under the lease, as well as open you up to liability.

From a business perspective, do you truly want a tenant like this?

NO NO NO.  Btw:  All landlords should have three forms:

  • the application form itself
  • a checklist form to evaluate the acceptability of the given information and the info obtained via the CR and BG check
  • and a formal Rejection Letter, stating why the application is being rejected (copy it, mail one copy and keep the other.)  The fact that the address is valid is not your problem - - you performed a best effort and that's enough.

In this case, the reason is simply Information Can Not Be Confirmed. (never state you lied)

This process avoids all possible claims of bias and discrimination.

No. Unfortunately land lording can make you jaded, but it's not worth the risk. Based on past experience, having a vacant unit longer is better than putting the wrong tenant in a unit. 

Damages like you're describing cost a lot to fix and they haven't paid rent yet or given proper notice. They will do the same to you! 

No. Unfortunately land lording can make you jaded, but it's not worth the risk. Based on past experience, having a vacant unit longer is better than putting the wrong tenant in a unit. 

Damages like you're describing cost a lot to fix and they haven't paid rent yet or given proper notice. They will do the same to you! 

Don't make having pity on someone a reason to rent to them. They are starting the relationship on a lie and now you've acknowledged that you're the type of landlord they can lie to, and if you find out you'll forgive them. That's a disaster waiting to happen.

Originally posted by @Matthew Kreitzer :

There would be a number of reasons not to rent to this individual, both legally and economically. If your lease required truth in answering the questions, failure to enforce such a provision could cause you to have waived a number of other rights and obligations under the lease, as well as open you up to liability.

From a business perspective, do you truly want a tenant like this?

 Ahh, didn't think about the legal side. No offense, but this is why I avoid Attorney's as tenants. One bad one can really ruin your day. LOL. 

However, the first line here in Pa. for evictions and judgements is in front of a magistrate. Though they might have a couple of weeks of legal training they don't always know the letter of the law. Basically, if the tenant didn't pay the rent they show up to court they lose. If they try to claim the property is uninhabitable, they would have needed to have put the rent into escrow or for the most part the judge won't even listen to the story.  (As a landlord you can't even file unless the city has inspected the property within the last 2 yrs and passed it as occupiable)  Usually 45 days and they are out. They can only appeal to the county court if the put the whole amount of the judgement in escrow with the court. (I've never heard this happen). In our area, at this rental level we don't see a lot of litigation on the level your talking about. Granted, my lease is 12 pages long. For the most part only the stuff in the first half of the first page even gets mentioned. 

Originally posted by @Amanda Perkins :

No. Unfortunately land lording can make you jaded, but it's not worth the risk. Based on past experience, having a vacant unit longer is better than putting the wrong tenant in a unit. 

Damages like you're describing cost a lot to fix and they haven't paid rent yet or given proper notice. They will do the same to you! 

 I might have not been clear. The only damages that I saw as "tenant related" was a kitchen drawer faceplate. I saw no holes in the walls as the PM stated or trash around. The yard was spotless and well maintained. The mold smell in the kitchen was from the basement. Which, if it was from water penetration from the outside it's on the owner. The house is about 100 yr old. so the foundation is exposed in the basement, only a partition wall made of sheetrock was down there and it was covered from floor to ceiling in mold. Stagnant water on the ground. 20+ yrs of experience I'm putting this on the owner. Add in the PM Bob obvious was lying to me about the damage. Tenant also complained about the pigeons roosting under the eves and getting into the attic. I'm just not buying the PMs side on this one. Especially, when his assistant was sad to hear they were leaving.

Originally posted by @John Thedford :

PASS! Find an honest tenant with nothing to hide.

 For this property in this neighborhood, there just isn't alot of perfect tenants. No OSP  (little onstreet available), shootings and poor schools, tend to scare off great tenants. Plus a next door neighbor that has broken into this house and stolen my tools and my electrical contractors tools (Legal disclaimer - My personal opinion, not provable) I don't like leaving it empty for long. Besides, if they are decent credit, they could buy a house for cheaper than the rent.  Don't get me wrong, it's not the ghetto. It is safe. I've never felt threatened at any hour of the day here. I have a large garage for rental properties in the alley way behind this house so I'm around alot. 

If they lied (or for that matter omitted something rather than filling in "N/A" if not applicable as instructed) on the application, their application would be denied in our business.  Your defense of the applicant is justified by the property "scaring off great tenants", and they have good credit.  Perhaps a reevaluation of the property is justified, maybe something that could attract great tenants, and not just ones whose credit is good but lack integrity?

I guess the problem comes down to this.  Is your property in such a bad neighborhood you will just take anybody who can pay the first months rent?  If so then rent to them.  If you think you can find a decent reliable tenant to rent to then wait and rent to them.  One problem with rentals in bad neighborhoods is the small pool of good tenants.

I big "NO."  Remember, an empty unit is better than an occupied unit with a bad tenant.  Tenants are supposed to be on their "best behavior" during the application process, putting themselves in the most positive light possible.  It only gets worse from here.

It sounds a bit like you are trying to rationalize the situation in order to fill your vacancy.  Remember, you are running a business, and there are prospective tenants out there that deserve a clean, well-maintained place to live.  They're just not always the first person through your door at a showing.  

It depends on how you approached this at the beginning and what you have found out since. Perhaps you could have found out more during a screening interview, prior to accepting her application.

We make it clear to all applicants that false or misleading information on a rental application will result in denial. We also make it clear that we value open and honest communication, so if they have a weakness in rental history, legal history, credit history, or income history... it is best to be upfront about it as we may be able to work with them. But if they try to hide something significant, be forewarned we most likely will find out.

Tenants who are not open and honest from the beginning are a greater risk. Anytime we knowingly take on a greater risk, we will require a greater security deposit. 

We once rented to a young and inexperienced applicant who had tried to cover up something from her rental history. We caught on right away and so I had a candid conversation with her. She then "came clean" with me and I better understood her position and why she had tried to do the cover up. I let her withdraw her rental application and fill out a new one. The past rental history was not so bad. We ended up working with her and did a thorough background check. We charged her more security deposit to take her on. The tenancy turned into a successful one and she learned how to be a responsible tenant during the time she rented from us. 

Our rental units are in decent areas and we strive to provide safe, clean, affordable, comfortable and quiet housing to responsible renters. However, our market niche is low income/fixed income. When working with that market, we have discovered many people who have learned bad habits and/or have bad history, including being less than open and honest. I would never tell someone that they are a liar or that they knowingly lied to me (even if I believe it is so), but I will tell them if I discover information they provided is false or misleading. I'll stick to facts and take it from there.

In most cases, the action of this applicant would be a deal breaker. Especially if she is not current on rent and does not give proper notice to her current landlord. However, if you discover what is behind the veil and can work with her, it might work out for both of you in the long run. Especially considering the area and your applicant pool. Good luck!

First tenants we ever had lied on their application regarding their landlord.  I was new at the game and contacted this person who gave glowing reports about these folks and stated they had lived in her place for four years and were only moving because she was selling the place.  This was a mom and her adult daughter (plus two teen age girls) who rented my house.

Initially they faithfully paid the rent each month; even calling me to come and pick it up (yes; I was so new at the game I was driving over to get the rent).  Then after one of the teens (who moved in either looking like she'd has a really good dinner or was pregnant..it was the latter) delivered her baby things rapidly went downhill.  Junior became the reason the rent was late.  Finally seven months into the lease they moved out one weekend leaving me with what ended up with 42 bags of garbage (at one point I was using a garden rake to get down to the layers of garbage left in the new moms bedroom).

One thing I did learn from all of this is to go through the paperwork in the garbage tenants leave behind.  They did take all the "important" stuff (the silk flowers) but left behind the "unimportant" things, including bank statements, dads death certificate (!), two old leases and (very kindly) their new lease. 

Contacting previous landlords I found these two had a habit of residing in a rental unit anywhere from six to nine months (so much for the "landlord friend" who gave me the report of renting for four years) and taking off, leaving the places a disaster.  Another landlord and I were able to file against them since we now knew their new address and drag them into court to sue them for owed rent and damages (won but got a minor amount back through garnishment since a good portion of mom's finances were through social security).  These two cost me about $3500 with their lies.

A long winded story perhaps but since that time I've had several potential tenants who have lied on my application; sometimes denying previous evictions, sometimes listing fake landlords.  If they lie on the application about any of this, I go no further in screening them.

Gail

It sounds like they had issues with the ownership and was trying to avoid having you talk to them for fear they would shoot down their app. That said, they should have leveled with you on the front end. Your issues are why I don't buy property in these types of areas. If you can't keep a good tenant in there, this might be your best option. If it were my property, I would sell.

Originally posted by @Darron Stewart :

No, had one applicant turn in copy of rental payment history, said no pets due to allergies, first line...drumroll...pet deposit!

 You got to love the ones who don't think you'll check.  

Originally posted by @Craig Smith :

Question: Would you rent to someone who gave you a false contact for their current Landlord?

(Omitted 2,400 words for clarity).

I am not sure why you are even asking this question. 

Are you?

Originally posted by @Dawn Anastasi :

Don't make having pity on someone a reason to rent to them. They are starting the relationship on a lie and now you've acknowledged that you're the type of landlord they can lie to, and if you find out you'll forgive them. That's a disaster waiting to happen.

 YES, The pity thing was a hard lesson, even still, to learn.