The missing 12 months – when rental applications don’t add up

A very important task of any Property Manager is assessing the quality of an application for a rental property.   Beginning with a 2 page application form sometimes we have very little to go on.   It’s all about reading between the lines and smelling a rat.

Recently we received our first, long awaited, application for a very unwanted property.   The rent was not unreasonable but very few people even wanted to come to an open inspection so when we got our first application we were keen to accept it until things didn’t seem to add up.

Checks on tenants

No one else liked the property but this lady absolutely loved it.   This raises alarm bells.   Why was she so different?   She even offered $25 per week more than the advertised price and she started ringing us regularly to find out how her application was going.   This was quite unusual in this renter’s market; more alarm bells.

Susan, we will call her, had been living with her mother for the last 3 months after her landlord sold the property that she had rented for the previous 2 years.   Previously she had 2 properties with Housing SA but they never give references; good or bad.

So the only reliable rental history we had was from the previous private rental.   Private landlords rarely keep accurate records and it’s certainly not possible to get a rent ledger to confirm what the payment history was like.

When we rang the private landlord they did confess that Susan was a family friend but they said she was fantastic in every way.   A reference too good to be true can raise even more suspicions.

Then the real questions started.

The landlord said Susan left over 15 months ago after the sale not 3 months.   When we spoke again to Susan she said that this owner had been under a lot of pressure lately and had obviously got her facts wrong.   Susan said she would ring her to sort it out.

Checking the title it showed the sale had in fact happened over 15 months ago but maybe Susan continued renting from the new owner for another year.   Time to go to the area and ask the locals.   No one was home at the house so I dropped into a neighbour.   I asked about Susan by name but they knew little other than to say a woman of her description had been there for well over a year.   “But hey!  Wait a minute”, the man said, “her name is not Susan, it’s Cheryl”.

Cheryl was the name of the new owner shown on the title.

Then I knocked on the door of the other neighbour.   She confirmed that Cheryl was the new owner and said she had been there since the sale.   She also said the previous owner would rent to anyone and said the last tenant was as ‘rough as guts’.   She had all sorts of people running through the place and everyone was surprised when eventually she got a place somewhere in Christie Downs.   That was enough for me, if Susan would not give details of the 12 months she rented in Christie Downs it had to be bad.

So the missing 12 months was the key and Susan is still looking for a rental.   She will probably try a private landlord on Gumtree because they don’t do checks.

Now back to the open inspections for us.