Always ask a Tenant for Proper Identification

Before you accept a rental application, it is imperative that you ask to see some type of government-issued photo identification (e.g. a driver’s license or passport) and a Social Security Card. And copies should immediately be made for your records. If you do not have convenient access to a copy machine, you should either take pictures with your phone or copy down the identification numbers, names, addresses and date of birth, exactly as they appear on each individual ID card.

[TIP: Do not accept a photocopy of any identification made by the applicant! You should always ask to see the originals. Personal computers, high-tech scanners and printers have made it far too easy to be able to manipulate virtually any type of government-issued identification. This is especially true if the end result is intended to appear as if it was a photocopy of the original. Be on alert! Identity theft is the primary reason why credit bureaus and the federal government are constantly changing their policies and laws with regard to the tenant screening industry. ]

The purpose of the photo identification is to verify that Jane Doe really is Jane Doe—and not Ms. Ima Fraud. If you accept an application without ever seeing the applicant’s photo ID for yourself, you will never know…

Asking for the applicant’s Social Security Card is critical, as the most common problem encountered when screening tenants is an incomplete credit check, the result of an inaccurate credit report. Oftentimes, that can spring from just a single incorrect digit in a Social Security Number. Whether an intentional error or simply a case of bad handwriting (or even poor vision for that matter), Social Security Numbers are commonly transposed. Asking to see the applicant’s actual Social Security Card not only improves the reliability of your tenant screening results, but also deters the applicant from attempting to assume another person’s identity for (at the very least) the purpose of renting your property under false pretenses. This is just one example of the many unseen pitfalls that the “everyday landlord” must be aware of in order to protect themselves from disasters the likes of which you can’t imagine…

Posted in Tenant Screening.