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Property Manager/Landlord: IE – Private Eye! Are Professional Tenants Getting One Over On You?

Property Manager/Landlord: IE – Private Eye! Are Professional Tenants Getting One Over On You?
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As Property Managers, we expect to get a lot of terrible applicants, but the “professional tenants” are getting smarter and smarter and are taking things to an all-time level to try to pull the wool over the eyes of potential landlord. In the Property Management world, we define a “professional tenant” as one who knows how to manipulate and game the system to avoid being identified as a tenant who repeatedly fails to pay rent, over and over. You know that caller who always first asks “Are you a private landlord?”  That tenant is assuming that a private landlord will not be as proficient as a professional property manager at screening them.  I would venture to guess that 100% of prospects who ask this question either owe money to other landlords, are in the process of getting evicted when they make the call or have something in their criminal background that makes them a high risk.

Take this one applicant we had – I’ll call her Mary (not her real name) who looked at one of our high-end Virginia Beach rental homes that we are managing for an out of state owner.  Mary said she was in town from NY to look for a rental b/c she was moving to Virginia Beach. She wanted to apply and get her lease signed all in one day, because she had to head back to NY the next morning. One of the first thing I learned about being a landlord and property manager is that the more the applicant wants you to hurry, the more you should slow down. After the viewing Mary says she loves the house and applies with pay stubs with a NY address on them.  She says she works as an account manager, and her company has agreed to let her relocate to our market. She even had her boss e-mail us a glowing letter saying that Mary had excellent opportunity for continued employment and was a valued employee. The boss’s e-mail had a website and a phone number on her signature line.

The first thing I found odd when reviewing Mary’s application is that the e-mail called the applicant the company’s employee, yet the pay stubs had no taxes taken out. I never rely on the company phone number an applicant gives me, because I caught one of my own ex-employees dummying data and using fake references. The first thing I did was check out the company website, thinking I could get the office phone number from there. When I tried the web address, which I double checked 3 times, it didn’t exist. Hum…. So, then I googled the phone number of the company, which should be a commercial land line if the company is legit, and find no hits. Hum…. Then I do a Google search for the company name. Still nothing. I googled the company address, thinking I could at least find some company name there. It’s a residential building in New York City. Hum…

At that point I call Mary and ask if it is OK for me to ask her a few questions. She reiterates about what a hurry she is in. I explain that I will work as quickly as I can, but I cannot skip steps of our screening process. I ask Mary what she does for work. She tells me she works for A&S Solutions. I replied with “but what do you do for A&S Solutions?” Another vague answer. ME: “But physically, what do you do? What is your job exactly?” HER: “I’m an account rep. We act as an intermediary between companies and the retail stores.” She said they represented small companies who couldn’t afford their own people like big companies such as Pepsi can. I then explain that I am having trouble validating the company. Mary asked if I called Anita, her boss. I explained that I have tried, but I don’t ever call the number provided by an applicant, because there is no guarantee the person on the other end is who they say they are. I shared with Mary that I tried to go to the website listed on her boss’s e-mail, but it does not exist. She said Anita told her they were having trouble with the website today. I then tell Mary I tried googling the company phone number and found it strange that it shows up as unregistered or unlisted. She seemed perplexed and responded with she never calls it because she just calls Anita. I then pointed out that I also tried to google the address of the company printed on the pay stubs she provided, and found a UPS store, which rents PO Boxes, and a residential building, but no evidence of an A&S Solutions at that address. Mary’s response was that she works in the field and has never been to the building, so she isn’t sure what all is there. I asked Mary if she had a computer handy so we could search for her company info online together, so she could help me figure out what I may be doing wrong. She said she was at the pool with the kids right then and didn’t have a computer with her. She said she would call her boss Anita tonight to figure out what was going on. I tell Mary I will take her file home with me this weekend and she can call my cell anytime with an update.

That all happened on a Friday afternoon.  Fast forward to 6 am on Saturday morning when I try the website again and find this…

The only problem is that none of the links work. I clicked on LEARN MORE – nothing. I clicked on the Facebook logo – nothing.

Then I went to Godaddy and entered the domain name into the WHOIS search bar and found this…

Domain ID: 2146931503_DOMAIN_COM-VRSN
Registrar WHOIS Server: whois.tucows.com
Registrar URL: http://tucowsdomains.com
Updated Date: 2017-08-25T23:38:59Z
Creation Date: 2017-07-26T03:37:56Z
Registrar Registration Expiration Date: 2018-07-26T03:37:56Z

Hum… It was 8-25-2017 at about 5:30pm when I had my conversation with Mary and told her the company website on her boss’s e-mail signature didn’t exist. At midnight someone published the website above, although they clearly didn’t put much thought into it. Mary told me the company did something with product placement in retail stores. Why in the world would a company with that focus have leather work gloves, a hammer and an ax on their website? Clearly, I have seen enough from this applicant to reject her on the basis of submitting untruthful information on her application.

Be careful out there when screening your tenants. If the information provided isn’t logical, there is a good chance it may not be true!

Submitted by: Patti Robertson, Property Manager & Landlord in Hampton Roads, Virginia