In a perfect world, you could have an applicant complete an application and believe that he or she is telling the truth. Of course, as we all know, we do not live in a perfect world. The simple truth of the matter is that many lease applicants do not tell the truth. Many of the lease applications you receive will contain outright lies or at least some truth-stretching or omission of pertinent facts. This is why it is imperative that you do not make the mistake of believing everything you read on a lease application. Certainly, this is not to say that there are not some honest people out there who are looking for a quality place to live and who will be responsible tenants. With that said, you cannot always trust what an applicant puts on an application, so you need to know how to determine when applicant is being untruthful.
The most important step you can take to ensure that an applicant is being honest is to verify what he or she has said on the lease application. This is your business and it is ultimately up to you to verify whether the applicant is being honest or less than truthful.
- If the Social Security number listed on the application is valid
- Whether the applicant has any aliases
- Whether the applicant has ever declared bankruptcy
- Whether the previous addresses listed on the application are correct
- Whether the applicant has any judgments or liens filed against him or her
- Whether the applicant omitted any addresses
- Whether the applicant is a registered sex offender
- Whether the applicant has had trouble in the past with bouncing checks
You might be thinking to yourself, what does some of this matter? So what if the applicant failed to list a previous address on the application? This is why it matters. Suppose an applicant omitted an address because he or she was evicted and they do not want you following up on that address and learning of the eviction. This is information you need to have. If an applicant was evicted from a former residence for failure to pay the rent or abide by the rules, there is a good chance that he or she will continue the same pattern of behavior.
Keep in mind that a background check does not replace the importance and responsibility of checking references, including talking to the applicant’s current employer and previous landlords. You will still need to conduct some research on your own, but a background check can reveal a tremendous amount of information that you will not necessarily find on an application and can even be used to determine whether an applicant is being honest with the information on the application.