Tenant Referencing – Top tips for spotting a rogue tenant
A property & rental fraudster who has been jailed for five years shows how important it is for landlords to maintain their guard when interviewing prospective new tenants.
Looks and stories can be deceiving and due diligence should ALWAYS be undertaken. If you take things at face value, you are opening yourself up to significant risk of letting to a rogue, some of whom are serial rental fraudsters.
The fraudster, a woman named Ryley Cruz, claimed she was a Barrister, and stopped at nothing when it came to telling lies to avoid paying her debts. These included that she had colon cancer, that she was in hospital, that she was attending a relative’s funeral, that she was escaping an abusive relationship, and that she was in a Witness Protection programme!
Cruz rented accommodation in a village – in a magnificent £3million house – and in Windsor by producing false pay slips and references to estate agents and property letting companies. Prosecutor Ian Fenny said she had exploited a loophole in the Landlord and Tenant Act which meant that if she paid a deposit and first month’s rent she could then stop paying but stay in the accommodation for the rest of the lease before being evicted.
She did this repeatedly – always renting top notch homes in the Home Counties and then the Cotswolds.
From the Thames Valley she moved to Bourton on the Water and leased a cottage from Gillian Beadman but after paying a deposit and first month’s rent she defaulted on the rent.
In what is a truly fantastical story, Cruz went on to defraud other people of thousands of pounds, including a Property Developer who she met on Sugardaddies.com!!
It is my belief that some rogue tenants prefer to let direct from the landlord, in the hope that the landlord is inexperienced or naive and will not do thorough checks on them. I therefore see reputable and professional lettings agents as a deterrent to this category of tenant.
I discussed this with James Davis, CEO of Upad, along with warning signs that you might be being targeted by a rogue tenant:
With regards to rent being paid upfront and in advance, it can also be a signpost that the tenant is intending to use your property as a brothel or for other criminal activity, so do be mindful of this.
As James said, when landlords are struggling to let their properties, they sometimes let their guard down and take a tenant out of desperation even if the references do not stack up or their gut is warning them not to. Don’t be that landlord!
Remember – a conman will not waste his time trying to convince knowledgeable skeptics. He will move on to find someone more easy to fool.