How to Spot Fake Landlord References

Most landlords that are looking for new tenants are always asking for reference letters and/or some level of reference information, which is an essential part of the tenant screening process. Unfortunately, it is not uncommon for prospective tenants in Canada and elsewhere to provide fake landlord references.  The majority of prospective renters are honest, unfortunately, there are some “bad apples” out there.

Regrettably, those who provide fake references don’t do it for good reasons. They often aim to conceal problems including late payments, bankruptcies, anti-social behaviour, and damage to the rental property or eviction. It is in the landlord’s best interests to identify these troublesome tenants before it is too late.

Fake landlord references can be hard to identify, especially if they are done by professional scammers who do it as a service. Still, it is possible by personally checking the references and paying close attention to what they say while double-checking the contact information, property or personal tax information, and employment records.

Here are several practical tips from Emerald Management & Realty Ltd. on how to be on the lookout for fake landlord references every time when sourcing a new tenant.

1.Personally Call the References

Personally calling the references is one of the best ways to check if they are real, and this can be done in a number of ways. One of the best possible approaches is to call as a tenant inquiring about how long they’ve been a landlord or renting out properties instead, which might have been expected. If a reference is a fake, they can be taken off guard, stumble when answering, or unexpectedly hang up the phone.

When the reference is a fake, they might be prepared for such a check and provide applicable information. Another alternative is to ask for back up information relating to employment and documentation from their employer. 

2.Check Tax Records

If you are dealing with a private landlord, another way to verify whether the landlord’s reference is real is to check the owner’s name in the property tax records. If the property owner’s name matches that in the reference, this check is complete.

However, if the name is different, it is not yet a signal that the reference is a fake. The previous landlord could have sold the property, or the reference could be given by a property manager.

If the names in the reference and property tax records don’t match, ask the person mentioned in a reference letter whether they own the property. If they confirm that the property is sold, ask the name of the next owner. If they don’t remember or don’t provide a clear answer, there is a high chance it is a fake.

3.Analyze the Reference Responses

When speaking to a landlord, it is advisable to ask specific questions about the rent and the rental property that only a landlord might know. For example: if the parking is included, if the rent includes amenities such as a pool, terrace, or clubhouse, and whether the tenant had a pet. If they cannot give an answer or provide vague responses, it can raise a red flag.

Meanwhile, too enthusiastic responses can be just as suspicious as vague ones since fake landlords, friends, and relatives often overdo it. If they provide too much information when not asked or if the responses are too personal, it can be a sign that the reference is a fake.

Get Help from Professional Property Managers

Although landlords can often identify troublesome tenants by spotting fake landlord references, the mistakes can be costly and time-consuming. At the same time, turning down a tenant for the wrong reason can result in a lawsuit due to non-compliance with the Fair Housing Act.

Another alternative is to get help from expert property managers who have access to various professional resources and are well-versed in due diligence on prospective tenants. To find out about Emerald Management & Realty Ltd.’s services to assist landlords and our effective and proven processes provided to move swiftly through tenant credit checks, call us at 403-237-8600 or contact us today.


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