How I Was Almost Fooled by Evicted Tenants (& What I Learned)


The top thing in every landlord’s mind is to ensure that you don’t recruit a tenant who will only result in an eviction notice. After all, having a troubled tenant can lead to cash flow problems, which is obviously bad. On that same note, not only can this lead to financial distress, but it can be time consuming and energy draining — and having to force others to move out of your property ASAP is simply not something you want to be doing.

Honestly, everything that I am about to say is true. I mean, sure, you see on the news channel, the internet and sometimes you hear from others these horrifying stories, but to experience one yourself is something else entirely. It was truly mind blowing to witness firsthand how much lie-weaving people were willing to do in order to trap some unwitting landlord to rent them the property. Want to hear the story? Well, here we go.


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They Looked Like Great Candidates

One day, the mother of a family called to give a walkthrough of property. I always make sure to do pre-vetting over phone to make sure they fit the qualifications, i.e. the applicant has to produce 3x net monthly income in addition to good rental history, verification of time on their job, and also good landlord references. In my case, I thought I hit the jackpot — after all, it was a beautiful family with a stay at home mother, hard working father, grandmother, and newborn daughter. Why, you couldn’t possibly ask for better tenants!

Related: 5 Scams That Trick Landlords Into Accepting Less-Than-Stellar Tenants

The family took a walkthrough of the house and absolutely loved it (as they should because that home was truly lovely). As a result, they decided that they wanted to move forward and discuss terms and legalities. But here is where things start to get really interesting.

On their application, they had their current residence, in addition to the contact information for their present landlord. So, as per routine, I ran the application through, and after some brief investigation, I discovered that they were being evicted from their current residence. However, when I contacted the family, they waved away my concerns and said that it was simply a glitch, assuring me that the landlord could verify (red flag alert!). I decided to give them the benefit of the doubt, so I called the landlord (who I later found out was a family member posing as a landlord).


Don’t Take All References at Face Value

The landlord a.k.a. family member mentioned that they were good tenants, and if given the chance, they would absolutely love to rent to them again. Obviously, I couldn’t take a mere word for something as serious as an eviction, so what I did from there was pull the public tax records out — which in turn showed the name of the actual landlord along with his true address.

Related: How to Pacify Your Most Indignant Tenants With One Simple Strategy

It doesn’t take much guesswork to know what I did next. I whizzed over there, and the (genuine) landlord mentioned that the family that he had as tenants were in fact being evicted and looking to get my place ASAP in fear that they would be without a home. The moment I heard this, I went ahead and approved the tenants out of generosity.

In a dream world, that last statement would have been the case, but in actuality I declined them. 

Honestly, the whole situation was mentally straining, and I just wanted to point out that these things happen in real life and not just in stories you hear from other people, so the moral of this story is that tenants do lie, so you should always do thorough due diligence. 

Investors: Let me know — what’s YOUR worst tenant story?

Leave your comments below!

About Author

Sterling White

Sterling White started in the real estate industry at a early age back in 2009. The company he co-founded Holdfolio is a real estate crowdfunding platform based in the Indianapolis market. Before founding Holdfolio Sterling and partner Jacob Blackett were involved in the purchasing and selling of 100+ single family homes nationwide. In his free-time he trains for a World Record


  1. Good post, Sterling. I can confirm…I have learned a few red flags the hard way. If someone is really in a hurry to move in you should be very careful no matter how reasonable their explanation sounds. I signed a lease with a woman once and the next day, a neighbor came over to warn me about her (too late, since I had already signed with her.) She was being evicted from the house across the street and the woman was actually afraid of her! The boyfriend who paid the deposits ended up being afraid of her too and moved out! Fortunately, she agreed to leave after living there for a month. I was lucky to learn a good lesson at a fairly low cost.

  2. Dawn Anastasi

    I’ve had potential tenants lie to me more often than I can count. You can’t take everything at face value. People may sometimes come up with interesting schemes to keep a roof over their head (even if they know they cannot pay more than the initial move in cost).

  3. Cody Barrett

    “In a dream world, that last statement would have been the case, but in actuality I declined them.” The statement I read before that made my jaw drop! LOL I was like WHAT?!?! And then you hit me with the, “just kidding I declined them..” hahah! Nice catch in finding out the real story behind them sir!

    I will be vetting for my first set of tenants in about a week after the rehab is done. I am very nervous about doing the proper due diligence and still signing on a rough tenant…. Mostly because I can’t afford a bad tenant lol with this being my first investment property and managing tenants in general…..

    Thank you for the post!!

    • Deanna Opgenort

      Be a screening Nazi. If you don’t spend 10 hrs doing the background/reference checks on tenants that you are serious about you can might easily spend 10x that having to get rid of them.
      Call references, look up court records, verify everything they tell you (they say they’ve been there 10 years — what does the landlord say? Does the landlord’s name check out with the ownership on the property where they live? Zillow has owner info, & you may be able to verify phone number of owner online).
      Call their work – they can confirm income. Interesting one was a guy out on a dubious “disablity” for the past 18 mos until two weeks before. He found out they were going to need to move & suddenly he returned to work. Clue was total amount earned in the year was exactly one paycheck, and a guarded and less-than-enthusiastic response by the receptionist when I asked if he worked there. She was very limited as to what she could say, but she could confirm that he had in fact only worked 2 weeks of the entire year. Needless to say, since he was the sole wage-earner their annual income wasn’t adequate.

  4. Deanna Opgenort

    I try to check their name in the County Superior Court records before I even call back (check by last name, in case they are going by a nickname).
    Best “attempt” was the guy who told me that they were moving because “the landlord was selling the house”.
    The eviction order had just been finalized by the court 3 days before, but the multiple loose dog, firearms in public & salmon poaching charges would have eliminated him even if there weren’t a newly-minted eviction order (yes, multiple counts of salmon poaching. Rural area. I can’t make this stuff up).
    Fortunately the local court records are easily searchable, and fairly accurate.

  5. Alex Craig

    Most tenants are not nearly as smart as they think they are. We sniff out this crap all the time. These types of tenants best shot to succeed with there lying shenanigans is calling local landlords with the generic For Rent sign in the yard. Professional investors and Property Management has seen this act far to often.

  6. My most amazingly bad prospective tenants broke into the vacant property that I was advertising. They got in through a side window, then unlocked the back door from the inside and started moving in. A neighbor who was helping watch the house for us said they were “running from their van to the house to move things in as quickly as possible”. We called the police, but by the time they arrived the people had unloaded and left again.

    Next, I got a call from the electric company wanting to verify these people were renting from us since they were trying to turn on the power. We called the police again, but they said there was no law against attempting to turn on the power. Finally, the police officer gave us his direct number, and he was able to catch the people breaking in with another load of furniture when we called him. The people said they needed a place right away since their eviction notice said they had to be out of their apartment by 6:00 (sound like my dream tenants) , so they figured they would move in first and then pay us later. Yeah, right!

    We agreed not to press charges if they got their furniture out and never returned.

  7. Matthew Pinkston

    I loved that little feint at the end:) This is a very good anecdote to reinforce the importance of double checking! I ran into a similar situation and could have gotten in trouble without a verifiable source for the background check. If you’re not willing to take that step yourself, hire a good PM to do it for you. Anything else is asking for trouble. Good article!

  8. Hello Sterling White,

    Good work, as you double checked the original land lord.
    But tell me how could you able to check that they were evicted?
    That’s very difficult task during these days.

    Often when people show their hurry to shift, the landowners should check their
    background history, just as to remain safe and avoid renting your house to anyone
    who would create a mess there.

    Now days it better to access their identity proofs, so that you can analyze them through
    and check upon those, whom you are willing to rent the house.

    Thanks for this post. Hope many would now be aware of this.
    Shantanu sinha

  9. Jacqueline Sapp

    The first two times I tried to evict for nonpayment, the tenant claimed deaths in the family and the eviction hearings were postponed. Then I received a letter from the Justice Department that my property was being used for drug dealing and that they would seize it. When I filed to evict on the drug charge, the woman who appeared in court and swore she was my tenant wasn’t. She told the judge she’d removed the drug dealers and it would never happen again if she could work out a payment deal for the back rent. I had the eviction signed that day but only after the attorney and I made the judge aware that the woman he was dealing with had just lied about her identity.

  10. Cameron Norfleet

    Great post! After I ask the landlord the generic questions concerning the prospective tenant, I usually ask verifying questions based on information that I get from public records such as “What year did you purchase the property?”, “Are you the only owner on title?”, “Is your mortgage still with Bank of America”…. knowing that their mortgage is actually with Chase.

    If they had a friend or family member posing as their former landlord, they’re most likely not going to know the answers to these questions. 🙂

  11. Kimberly H.

    This post and it’s comments are awesome!!

    That’s good you caught that. Your lucky you were able to find the current landlords address. Our companies tax bills go to a UPS store and our name is so common no one can find us. And no one has land lines anymore so I’m surprised to hear people have success finding phone numbers.

    Recently, I got one application that looked very strong, high income high credit score. But I needed applications from all the other adults that would be living there. Just got though checking out all kinds of stuff, employment verification, calling references, doing the debt to income math, social media, etc., got previous landlord check which was good, last piece I was waiting on was current landlord check. I *almost* wanted to accept them without getting the current landlord verification since the previous landlord check and all the other work I did was all good, thankfully I didn’t. Current landlord said 3 late pays in past year, one 10 days late. Of course on the 4 applications I got from the 4 adults where I ask,”How many times have you paid late in past year” they all put 0. They live in an apartment building with an office they can walk to to pay rent, this is a single family home where we give 5 options to pay, none of which as easy as walking to an on-site office. What a waste of time on everyone’s part and money on their part.

    I agree with Deanna, it is a ton of work!!

    And it’s amazing how many say they are moving “because the landlords selling the house”. They don’t know that we know that that’s often what a landlord tells a bad tenant when they chose not to renew them!

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