We see a lot in the news about tenants falling victim to rogue landlords, but much less about the landlords who fall victim to rogue tenants.
Tenant fraud and identify theft is a big problem and landlords are particularly vulnerable to abuse by would-be scammers.
This guide considers what you need to watch out for and how Peopletracer's tools can help you to protect yourself.
Are you vulnerable to tenant fraud or identity theft?
There are a number of things that landlords need to be wary of when they're dealing with prospective tenants.
Identity fraud is probably the biggest risks that landlords face – whether it's their own identity being stolen or a tenant pretending to be someone they're not. This type of fraud is on the rise in Britain, with it counting for a third of all fraud cases in 2013.
As a landlord, you're particularly susceptible to identity fraud, so it's essential that you take steps to minimise your risk.
Protecting Your Own Identity
If tenants are living in your property and open post addressed to you, they may be able to use the personal information enclosed to steal your identity. They may then use your identity to forge documents, or pretend to be you to secure loans. Some tenants have even sold their landlord's houses, before doing a runner with the money.
There are a number of things that you can do to reduce the risk of your identity being stolen by tenants:
Register your title to the property at the Land Registry with a current address for correspondence.
Double check that all your post is addressed to your current home – not your rental property.
When the tenant moves in, make sure that their name is on all the current bills and that no post addressed to you is still there.
Make sure all your personal documents are stored in a secure place.
Check your bank statements regularly for any unusual activity.
Shred letters containing personal information when you no longer need them.
Check your credit rating every six months and look out for credit applications made in your name.
Identity Fraud and Tenants
Another way that tenants can scam landlords is by faking their own identity. By forging passports and other documents they can pass a credit check in someone else's name, thereby conning you into thinking they're a good candidate for tenancy.
Image by EEPaul
You should do everything you can to ensure that your tenant is who they say they are. Many letting agencies will carry out pre-tenancy vetting for you – if this is the case, you need to ensure that they are a reputable company.
Alternatively, if you are letting the property yourself, there a number of checks you need to perform:
Use a comprehensive tenant application form. You can find printable versions from trusted online sites.
Ask to see one or more proof of identity documents such as a passport, driver's licence, utility bills, birth certificate etc. Make sure at least one of them includes a photograph.
Make sure you credit check all potential tenants, looking out for financial problems such as County Court Judgements.
Ask for references from employers and previous landlords.
If they own a car, make sure to take a note of the registration number.
How to check tenants details using Peopletracer
Peopletracer's people searching tools can help you to further verify the details that tenants provide you with. To get started simply sign up or have a look at the packages we provide. If you're just looking for one person the bronze package should be ideal, but if you're trying to trace more than one person you will need the silver or gold package.
What tools should you be using
- Address Search – if you want to verify someone's name and past addresses an address search can throw up a wealth of information. Simply perform a people search and you'll be provided with a list of addresses to search through.
You will also be able to see useful information about the house, such as previous occupants, other occupants, the last time it was sold and a secondary search to check the name of the owner.
- Financial Information – it's essential to check a potential tenant's financial history in order to highlight any inherent financial risk.
When you receive your 'People Search' results, simply click on the 'Financial' tab. You will then be able to see if the person has any UK CCJs, Bankruptcies, DROs or IVAs.
- Death Records – checking death records is a good way to make sure that a tenant isn’t impersonating someone who is deceased.
Peopletracer offers you access to every registered mortality in England and Wales from 1976-2006. The search results will include the name of the deceased, their date of birth and the month and year of registration.
- Business Records - our Business Search allows you to check that the person you are dealing with is a director of the named business and that the business actually exists.
Simply, log in and then click on the 'Businesses' tab at the top of the page. Then enter a business name, company registration number or location to start the search.
You can also use our Director Search to verify whether someone is a director of the named business that was provided.
Trace old tenants with Peopletracer's tools
You can also use Peopletracer's tools to trace old tenants who owe you money.
We provide access to the edited electoral roll from 2002 to the present day at no added cost, and regularly update our search results to make sure you're getting the most accurate information possible. So, even if you've previously failed to track someone down, Peopletracer may be able to provide you with new information to help your search.
An increasing number of businesses and landlords are now turning to electronic/online identity checks, due to the vulnerability of paper trails to tampering and forgery.
For enhanced protection, Peopletracer's parent company Tracesmart offers IDU, a powerful identification and fraud prevention solution for businesses. IDU uses information such as credit data, bankruptcies and mortality records to verify your tenant's identity and financial position.
Tracemart also offers Trace IQ, a powerful solution for tracking down absconded tenants and carrying out background checks.