We use a company called Tenant Data that gives us a lot of good information. It shows if they have any revolving debts, installment accounts, credit scores, collections, delinquent accounts and much more. I also like that it shows the previous places that they have lived in the past. Some people aren't forthcoming about where they really may have lived and give you false information on the application. Many counties and cities also have access to other public records that may be helpful. Guessing access varies to that depending on where you live. Don't be afraid to call the previous places they have lived for references. Make sure who you are calling is actually the owner or manager of the properties. Good luck with your future properties.
I've actually read in threads here where people have called previous landlords asking if they had a vacancy. That way if they have no idea what you're talking about you can assume the applicant gave you a friend's name to pose as their landlord. It sounds crazy but tough tenant screening is well worth the extra time up front.
See if your city and/or state have a landlord association. You can usually get state specific forms and often tenant screening through them.
Get as creative as you can verifying applications. One thing I do is look on the assessors website to find the true owner of each address and send them a form letter asking them to contact me ASAP if they know anything about the applicant they'd like to share. I don't get a lot of responses, but feel it is time well spent; landlords/owners remember the names of the tenants who have cost them a lot of money and headache, and may be reaching someone different than who is being listed on the application due to property management or fraud.
I would not pose as an applicant if I also want to ask the person about that prior tenant, unless you have two different people to call. If you ask enough questions you can tell if they are really a landlord/PM. And, honestly, you will not connect with most of them.
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