Can you spot a fake?

Getting the right tenant is fundamental to a successful tenancy and while theres a certain amount of judgement and ‘gut feel’ that goes into the selection it has to be supported by formal referencing.  

Because its so important, I feel that referencing is one of those things best left up to the professionals and I’m always surprised when I hear of landlords (particularly smaller landlords) and agents doing it all themselves.

Recently we’ve had a spate of tenant applications for properties that have failed referencing and I’ve been extremely grateful to have the support and back-up of a professional referencing agency. The reasons for failure are various and include the following:

– Undeclared County Court Judgements

– False landlord details

– False living arrangements

– Inaccurate salary details

– False employment information

Some of these issues we spotted in the office, others were picked up later by the referencing company. Most were fairly amateurish, for example if you want a friend to pretend to be your landlord they should at least know where you live! They should also know how much rent you pay!

Others were much more ‘professional’. In one instance the referencing agency were not completely satisfied with an applicants employment information and so requested copies of his bank statements.The alarm bells started ringing when it took 3 days for those statements to be produced. When they finally arrived I received a call teling me they were fakes. At first glance I couldn’t see what was wrong with them, in fact it took me several minutes to see the first issue and there were others I missed completely until they were pointed out to me.

To the referencing company they were obviously fakes and not very good ones at that. Now it may not be any great surprise that they spotted things I didn’t, that is afterall their job, but how many landlords doing their own referencing would have spotted the inaccuracies and how many would like me have missed them?

Every now and again we carry out referencing for landlords who have advertised their properties themselves, held viewings and selected a tenant but are not sure what to do next. Sometimes referencing completes well, sometimes it doesn’t and sometimes the tenants unexpectedly decide that they’re not interested in the property anymore or simply disappear.

Call me suspicious but I believe this latter group deliberately target properties advertised directly by landlords because they know that they are less likely to have to undergo formal referencing. There’s always a reason why people want to avoid referencing, and generally those reasons will put your property and your income at greater risk.

My referencing company have advised that  1 in 80 applications they process are clear attempts at fraud.

Your investment property is probably your second biggest asset after your own home so don’t take unnecessary risks, make sure you use a professional referencing agency before you hand over your keys.