Spotting Fake Landlord References

Table of Contents

A good tenant is, indeed, hard to find. Most landlords find the new tenant search to be the most challenging aspect of the job — even with all the digital tools at your disposal, it’s ultimately a judgment call on your part whether to accept an applicant. To make the tenant search even more of a headache, the current and ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has added an extra layer of anxiety — what if your super-looking applicant gets laid off next month? First, accept that the world is different, and there are many things that are just beyond your scope of knowledge or control. Focus instead on the things you can control, like getting a quality tenant. You’re thinking, I have a strong application process with background and credit checks, and I always check for fake landlord references. 

That’s a good start — as long as you are aware of fake landlords who give fake landlord references. There is a thriving economy for false references in the rental world — Paladin Deception and Reference Pal are among two of the worst. These sites quite cheerily outline how they will fake your landlord references (for a small fee, of course), and you, the landlord, will ever be none the wiser. There’s also a Reddit thread dedicated to how to fake references — that one is free. 

The following tips are tried and true ways to spot a fake landlord reference — sure, it takes a bit more time than simply calling a number and asking a series of boilerplate questions. But an hour of your time is well worth avoiding a scam tenant. 

Check out Social Media

First stop, check social media for a fake landlord. 

Look through your prospect’s pages — Facebook, Instagram, and LinkedIn are good starting points. See if the reference is a friend or follower of the applicant. Are they tagged or photographed together? Do they “like” each other’s posts and leave comments? Okay — how many of your tenants do you go out with on St Patrick’s Day? If social media hints at a personal relationship, cyberstalk a little deeper. Is there a professional profile page for the rental company, or are the social media ghosts? Also check out the landlord’s website to confirm they are legitimate. 

Pay Close Attention to Responses

False reference responses can be really vague, or, conversely, too personal.  

When you call the reference, skip the prepared questions and engage the respondent in conversation about the prospect. This gives you an idea for whether there was a real business relationship, or if the reference is a hired gun or best friend.

If the respondent agrees to everything you say, mumbles uh-huh, or doesn’t have much recall for simple questions (did they have a pet? Were there pet damages to the property?).  Hesitancy is another red flag, as is a sudden need to get off the phone. 

On the other hand, enthusiastic responses that tell too much are equally bothersome — how would you, as the landlord, know that they take really long showers and hog all the hot water? While it is possible there is a personal relationship between the landlord and tenant, it’s unlikely — just like it’s unlikely that the fake landlord would not recall if the police had the property on their Saturday night rotation. 

Get Verifying Details

Again, throw away the scripted questions and engage the party on the other end. Rather than reel off the information you have about the property, ask for the data — what were the move in and move out dates, what was the rent, applicant’s social security number, birthday — even verify the property address. Keeping detailed records is a must in the property management business, so be very skeptical of a reference who can’t answer basic questions. One caveat — the professional cheats will have most of this information, so it’s up to you to dig a little deeper. 

Get Details on the Property

You’re both real estate professionals (in theory), so ask the reference about the property. How many bedrooms and bathrooms? Were any utilities or city services included? What was the square footage, was parking included, were there other amenities (pool, clubhouse, playground) or add-ons? Vague responses or the inability to answer are the hallmarks of a fake landlord reference.  While you’re talking shop, get some of the info wrong — number of bedrooms or parking spaces, for example, and see if they catch the mistake. 

Check Tax Records

Search local tax records to verify the property address — some addresses listed as a prior residence don’t even exist. Also, search the landlord’s name to see if they in fact own the property. A matching name and address is generally a legitimate situation, but there can be reasonable discrepancies if the landlord is not the owner or has very recently sold the property.  

Call the Reference Looking for a Rental Property

You’ve got the phone number for the fake landlord, so give them a call to inquire about a property for yourself. The false references will be completely flummoxed and hang up, or stumble over their words. Professional fakes expect this call, and will give you some information on some properties they have. Ask for links to their listings. If you just get verbal data, press for an appointment to see the property. You might browbeat them into a showing, but undoubtedly they will cancel on you. 

Stick With Legitimate Processes

Spotting A Fake Landlord Reference

As a landlord, you have your own responsibilities towards the applicant. Even though an applicant sets off every alarm bell in your head, you can’t just turn them down without conducting a thorough investigation. The Fair Housing Act (FHA) has strict rules regarding the disposition of applications, and refusing to rent based on race, color, religion, sex, disability, or family status is illegal. The fake landlord reference company Reference Pal markets specifically to applicants who are disadvantaged, and are on the lookout for landlords who fail to cross a procedural T or dot an I to get unqualified tenants into properties.  Ultimately, it is your responsibility to do your due diligence on all applicants and determine the best candidate.

Keep It Simple

One way to protect yourself against applicants who fabricate references is to let them know in writing, on the application, that lying on the application in any fashion is grounds for a refusal to rent, and if the tenant is accepted, grounds for eviction.  Professional property managers have the experience to spot fake landlord references quickly and without a lot of hassle, so consider hiring a professional for this and all your management needs — let them worry about screenings and trolling social media. 

Contact us to learn more about spotting a fake landlord.

Share via Email
Share on Facebook
Share on LinkedIn
Share on Twitter

Get help from DC's top real estate team.

Founded in 2005, Nomadic is the go-to full service real estate firm in the DMV. We've helped thousands of landlords, investors, and residents and we would love to connect with you next.

Check out more of our blog posts below!

Or search for a different topic:

IT Support by SADOSSecure, Fast Hosting for WordPress
Scroll to Top
Scroll to Top
Explore Logo

Get a free INSTANT home valuation report!

Automatically delivered straight to your inbox within seconds.

Explore Logo

Thinking of selling? Get an instant property value report:

Enhanced Reporting

Your portal includes a selection of extremely useful reports. Reports are available in the “Reports” section, and are distinct from the financial statements. Unlike financial statements which are static records, Reports are dynamic real-time records that will update with current data every time you view them. 

Scroll down to learn more about Reports:

Navigate to the "Reports" module in your portal:

  • Keep in mind, these reports are dynamic records. They will refresh to display current information every time you view them. 

Enhanced Rent Roll Report:

  • The Enhanced Rent Roll Report will show the rent amount, last payment date, move-in date, lease expiration date, and security deposit amount for each of your tenants. 
  • It will also show a portfolio summary with occupancy percentage, vacancy loss, and more!

Unit Comparison Report:

  • If you own multiple units (or buildings) with Nomadic, you’ll get access to the Unit Comparison Report. 
  • This report enables you to quickly compare financial performance between your units at a glance without toggling between individual reports. 

Income Statement Month-Over-Month:

  • The Income Statement Detail – Monthly Report serves as a month-over-month record of portfolio performance. You’ll see itemized income and expense categories and can track monthly. This report will update with fresh data every time you view it. 

Financial Statements

Financial statements will be published to your portal on a monthly basis. The statements are found in your Documents library, and provide a historical record of all financial performance. The statements serve as a snapshot of financial performance over a given period, and are static documents (unlike Reports, the statements do not update/change in real-time). 

Scroll down for more info about the Financial Statements in your Documents library:

The Documents area contains monthly financial statements:

  • The statements in the Documents are are static documents. They are posted to the portal once a month to serve as a historical record of financial performance. 

Download a statement to see month and YTD financials:

You'll also find a month-over-month operating statement:

Portal Communication Tool

You can use your owner portal to communicate with our team. Any messages you send through the portal will go straight to your Account Manager. When we reply, you’ll get an email notification and you’ll also see the message in your portal next time you log in. 

Here’s an overview of using the communication platform:

Click "Communications" and navigate to "Conversations":

  • The communications module will contain a record of all messages that you create through the portal. 

Click the "New Message" button and send your message:

Responses will show up in the conversation ticket:

  • You’ll get an email notification whenever you get a response, and you’ll also see the message in your portal next time you log in. 

You can reply in-line using the comment box:

Each conversation will be logged in its entirety:

Understanding the Ledger

Your portal includes a ledger with all transactions. The ledger is populated with data in real-time as transactions flow through our accounting software. Much of this information is also available in the Reports area, as well as the Statements in your Documents library, but the ledger is the most comprehensive resource for diving into the details. 

Please scroll through the sections below to get a better understanding of how to interpret the ledger. 

By default, transactions are sorted chronologically:

  • The date reflected in the lefthand column is the actual transaction date, not the “bill date”. This is the date the transaction was actually processed. 

If you have multiple properties with Nomadic, you'll see the address for each transaction in the "Location" column:

  • You can filter the ledger to look at just one property, all properties, or specific sets of properties. 
  • If you only have one property with us, you’ll just see the ledger for that property. 

The Description column displays the transaction type:

  • BILL: this is an expense transaction, such as for repair costs or management fees.
  • CHARGE: this is a transaction  billed to the tenant, most typically a rent payment. 
  • NACHA EXPORT: this is a credit we processed to your distribution account. This type of transaction is how you get paid! 

The Amount column shows the dollar value of each transaction:

  • Positive Amounts: if an amount is positive, it reflects a transaction that is payable to you. Typically, this will be a rent payment that we collected from your tenants. On occasion, a positive number could also signify a journal entry or credit adjustment. 
  • Negative Amounts:  if an amount is negative, this is a transaction that is either payable to Nomadic or is an amount that has already been paid to you. Typically this will be for repair costs or management/leasing fees. Owner draws (net distributions into your checking/savings account) also reflect as negative amounts, since they have already been paid to you. 

The Account Balance column shows a sum of positive/negative transactions at a given point in time:

  • Account Balance should always equal zero after a net distribution has been processed. When the balance is zero, this means that all expenses have been paid and you’ve received the remainder as net operating income, leaving a balance of zero (meaning: no one is due any money, as all funds have been distributed appropriately). 

Navigating the Propertyware Owner Portal

Your portal includes some extremely useful features that help you understand your property’s financial performance at a new level, with real-time transparency into every transaction.

Scroll through the snapshots below for an overview of portal navigation! If you need more help or have specific questions about using the portal, you can reach out to your Account Manager any time for a screen share. 

You can filter all info by date range or property:

View a snapshot of income and expenses on your dashboard:

See every transaction in real-time on your ledger:

Statements and forms will be posted to your documents library:

View a suite of real-time financial reports:

See a running list of all bills, and drill down for more detail:

Under Bill Details, you'll find dates/descriptions/amounts and more:

You can also communicate with your Account Manager through the portal:

How do net distributions work?

Net distributions keep your accounting clean and simple. Each month we’ll collect rent from the tenants, deduct any repair expenses for the previous month and any management/leasing fees for the current month, and credit the remaining net operating income to your account. 

You’ll receive a statement via email each time a net distribution is processed, and can view all transaction details in your Propertyware owner portal.