Chicago Property Management Best Practices – Awareness and Protection Against Rental Application Fraud
The purpose of this post is to help Chicago apartment owners, managers, and leasing professionals mitigate the reality of rental application fraud.
We’ve experienced application fraud firsthand — in varying forms, too — and have experienced its consequences.
Hopefully, it never happens to you, but we urge you to be prepared. The risk of signing a tenant who used fraud to meet your qualifications can be costly and uncomfortable, to say the least.
Fraudulent practices, like forging documents or stolen identity schemes, have become more sophisticated and accessible. Here are three practices we use and recommend to protect yourself:
1. Don’t accept tenant-provided credit reports. Use your own.
An applicant or prospect might tell you that they have their credit report ready to give you or will provide their own. That this is just them being prepared and organized for apartment hunting knowing that a credit check would be needed.
We recommend politely declining their supplied credit report and instead relying on running your credit check through an independent reporting method, of which there are several.
No exceptions here – you must run an individual credit report for each adult occupant. Their report may be outdated, for a different person, forged, etc.
2. Get independently verified income information.
We don’t recommend relying on applicant-provided paystubs, tax returns, offer letters, etc. as evidence of their income. They might be forged.
Personal example — we processed an otherwise innocent application that was on its way to approval and called their “employer” to verify income as part of our standard practice. To our surprise, the employer on their offer letter had no idea who the person was and they certainly weren’t an active or future employee. The letter was on company letterhead and was shockingly detailed, but was a forgery.
Verify income through independent third-party sources like national employment databases, applicant bank records, and the employer. Be cautious with applicant-provided information – it must be verified.
3. Make sure the person who applied is the same person you toured.
Require applicants to submit a photo ID with their rental application so you can be sure the person who applied is the same person who toured the apartment.
We’ve experienced fraud attempts like this before as well. This simple precaution could save you from renting to an identity thief or being had by an identity scheme.
Since our start in 1983, we’ve been committed to providing Chicagoland apartment owners and investors with effective, uncomplicated, and transparent property management services.
If you own apartments in Chicago and are looking for help with property management, we’d love to hear from you!
Director of Property Management – Root Realty, Inc.