How to spot a scammer

Private Property South Africa
Cath Jenkin

The perfect tenant

You’re certain you’ve finally found the perfect tenant. You’ve met, they’ve seen your rental property, and you have been bowled over by their wonder. But there’s a little twinge in your gut, that’s telling you otherwise. Listen to it. Our intuition is seldom wrong when it comes to people and situations. Yours, as a landlord, is doubly tuned into the good, the bad, and the things to be avoided. But, if you’re concerned your gut isn’t all that good at communicating, there are a few ways to make sure your dream tenant is a reality.

See more: How to find the right tenant

An agent’s wisdom

There seem to be a thousand articles advising potential tenants on how to avoid rental scams, but what about the landlords? Potential tenants may not be who you think they are, and they may intend to use your investment property for nefarious activities. That’s why we recommend working with a reputable real estate agent, who specialises in rental properties within your designated area. They have every tool and mechanism for pre-screening potential tenants, and making sure your property will be well taken care of. And, they’re fully equipped and experienced enough to know you will be asking for proof of their tenant verification techniques.

Red flags, everywhere

We’ve compiled a short list of red flags landlords should look out for, when selecting potential tenants for their investment property. These include:

  • Over-eager deposit payer: If your tenant is happy to sign the lease, or pay a deposit before they’ve viewed the property, beware! This is often used as a tactic when shady tenants intend to bluff past procedure so they can begin using your rental property for nefarious reasons.

  • Don’t come in: As a landlord, you are responsible for ensuring your property is well-maintained. Part of this process includes conducting an inspection before your tenant moves in, and once they’re moving out. It may also require you to visit the rental property during the term of the lease. You are obliged to make a convenient appointment with your tenant to undertake this inspection, but if your tenant seems to be avoiding you, there may be a reason why.

  • They’re not who you think they are: Impersonating someone else, or using someone else’s details, to secure a rental property is fraud. But, sadly, it’s all too common. This often happens when a tenant with a bad credit record, or possibly even a criminal record, needs to secure a new home. If you think something isn’t quite right with their documentation, you’re probably right.

  • No references: Of course, if your potential tenant is a first-time renter, they won’t have any references from previous landlords. But, if that’s the case, they should still have references from their employers past and present, and some sort of verifiable reference network they can rely on, that’ll vouch for their ability to pay rent, and their character.

  • Document verification: Chances are, a chancer will try to take a chance. Using fraudulent documentation is all too common, so you must have every document verified by the institution it is purported to originate from. This is where your rental estate agent comes in really handy, as they’re easily able to verify, and follow up on, the required documentation.

  • We’re better than you think: Any potential tenant who tries to push past due process or ignores your requests for information needs to be crossed off your list immediately. No matter how desperate you may feel for the rental income, it’s better to have your rental property stand empty for a month, than to have an unsuitable tenant living in it.

  • It’s just the two of us: This one is terribly difficult to rectify after your tenants move in, so making sure the occupants of your rental property really are who they are, is important. Moreover, if you rent to a seemingly lovely couple, only to find ten people suddenly living in your one-bedroom rental apartment, thanks to your neighbour’s alert, you may have a horrible situation on your hands. Make sure your lease specifies the maximum amount of people who may occupy your rental property, and outlines the rules about guests staying over. You are also entitled to set a maximum limit of people allowed to stay per bedroom, and delineate which areas of your rental property may be used as bedrooms. For example, your garage cannot be converted into a bedroom, to make extra space for inhabitants unknown to you.

Don’t play loose with the lease

They’ve passed every step of the verification process, paid their deposit on time (and it didn’t bounce!), and your new tenant is almost ready to move in. Don’t play loose with your lease. Make sure your lease specifies everything you need it to, and that the exact details of every responsibility, for both you and the tenant, are outlined. Leave nothing to chance, and have your lease checked by an estate agent, or property lawyer, before you and your tenant sign on the dotted line.

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