How to Identify Fake Landlord References Furnished by the Tenant

By Robert Lear posted 03-28-2021 03:37 PM


If you’ve been renting an apartment and it’s time to move to a new place, a good reference letter from your landlord can smooth the way to securing a new place. Property managers and landlords look at references as part of doing a background check on the tenant, and a fake reference letter will be scrutinized and identified. 

Property managers recognize fraudsters

A rental reference letter confirms that a tenant is responsible, they’re able to conform to rules laid down by the landlord and are financially able to pay rent each month. When a tenant has broken all the rules but needs rental accommodation, they may hand over a fake reference letter to the next landlord. 

With modern technology, modifying text is easy for fraudsters clued up on the internet. Done well, fake reference letters are almost impossible to spot for a landlord. That’s why property management companies are so useful - they’re used to these letters and know how to detect them. 

Affordable Property Management, better known as APM, has been in this business for more than 30 years and they know how to pick up something odd and root it out. 

Fake tenants and fake landlords

There are shady tenants but also shady companies ready to assist dodgy tenants. Fake reference letters are surprisingly common, and a few bucks in someone’s pocket can get a tenant an original-looking reference letter.

Property managers have to be real detectives these days because wily tenants know all the tricks of the trade. A property manager knows that calling up the previous landlord to get answers about a tenant may just be a willing family member playing landlord. The ‘appointed landlord’ will sail through all the screening questions on the tenant. 

Vague answers from suspect tenants

Most meticulous landlords and property managers keep a file on their previous tenants. A property manager can ask to check out if details on the reference letter match up with all the information the previous landlord has in their files. 

Tenant referrals are important to every property manager, but often the so-called landlord isn’t who they claim to be. The property manager has to then do detective work to find honest information on a prospective tenant. 

A property manager has to make use of all their sleuthing skills to determine the authenticity of a reference letter. They have to also recognize the vague answers to their questions. 

Check social media

When checking out a new tenant, allow your detective work to take you to social media. True, not everyone is on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram or LinkedIn, but pretty much everyone belongs to one or the other. 

Many employers use social media to screen employees before hiring, and property managers do the same to accept new tenants. Using social media appropriately and within the law can be useful. Pair your social media investigation with the reference letter you’re dubious about. 

You might be lucky to find the name of the tenant and see that even though they claim to have no pets, you see there is mention of pets on their social media pages. Make a list of all the things you notice that doesn’t match up. 

Make a business visit to the tenant’s place

Misrepresentation of previous rental history can lead you to a terrible rental arrangement and endless trouble. Small wonder that so many property owners put their rental property into the hands of experienced property managers.

Ask the tenant if you can come to their rental property to have certain rental documents signed. This will give you a chance to look around and see the condition of the current property they’re living in if indeed they even live where they claim to live. 

There are no guarantees with any tenant. Get a property manager to rather deal with your tenants from hell after you made the mistake of not recognizing the fake reference letter presented to you.