Tenant Screening: Exercise Due Diligence and Trust your Instincts

Tenant screening and a landlord’s application process are the first steps in deciding to whom you will rent a home. Unfortunately, not all landlords take this step in the vetting process as seriously as they should. This is disappointing because this is where many of the risks of renting out a property can be avoided. At LandlordBC we get many calls from non-member landlords who are facing tenant issues and one of the first questions we ask is “did you complete a rental application?” Often, with the more serious cases, the answer is no. It cannot be stressed enough how important utilizing a proper tenancy application is.

LandlordBC recently received an email from a member that outlined a situation that should serve as a reminder to all landlords, property owners, building managers, and property managers as to how catching red flags early on can save you headaches and money down the line:

I received a call today from a woman who stated she was looking for an apartment for her daughter. First impression was that she didn’t sound old enough to even have a daughter who would be old enough to need a place on her own in Vancouver. The application was for a fully furnished unit. I asked for the daughter’s name which she provided; Lisa B. When I asked how old her daughter was, she paused and then finally told me 34. I then asked for the daughter’s email and phone number. She didn’t know her daughter’s email address and after a duration provided me with a phone number. The entire exchange seemed a little fishy. Regardless, I sent her one of our applications and not 30 minutes later it was electronically filled out and returned to me. They wanted to move in tomorrow! As I did more digging, none of the phone numbers provided on the application were accurate. 

I emailed the previous landlord whose information was provided on the application. I asked him to call me regarding Lisa as his past tenant. He called me and gave me a reference, but also said that she had rented from him in 2015 to approximately 2017 and he had rented it since to other renters. After providing me with the reference, the previous landlord must have contacted the real Lisa to say he had given her a glowing reference. That is when I got a call from the real Lisa informing me she didn’t know how I got her information, but she was not applying for a place to rent!

I told her I was suspicious from the beginning and that it appeared these people were using her identity to falsely try to rent a place. She took down all the information and confirmed it was all her details they had disclosed on this application!

By conducting a proper reference check and using her professional instincts when faced with questionable information, this landlord was able to avoid what would surely have been a very problematic situation. Reputable tenants with legitimate inquiries expect to be asked for references and they know that those references will be contacted. It is important that you, as the landlord, are using proper paperwork and understand what questions you can and cannot ask to mitigate your risk! Thankfully, in this situation not only was the landlord able to avoid renting to a less than desirable tenant, their good business practices also alerted the real Lisa to the potential identity theft.