Tenant Screening

Employer Verifications and References

Don’t be surprised if you sometimes feel like verifying someone’s employment is like pulling teeth – especially among the larger companies that have their toll-free or 900-H.R. number hotlines that require a ridiculous fee to simply verify your applicant’s employment. Employers either don’t want to be bothered or are too paranoid about the potential legal liability in rendering an opinion or offering information about one of their employees. You’ll be lucky if you’re able to verify how much money your prospective tenant earns.

But enough of the banter – let’s get down to business. First of all, is it necessary for you to actually verify your applicant’s employment? After all, they could easily lose their job the next day. The point is that – somewhere along the way – everyone has a lapse in employment (being laid off, resignation, termination). There is one theory that if your applicant has been able to demonstrate over time the ability to satisfy their obligations regardless of the ups and down, does it really matter at this particular point whether or not they have a job?

Whether it’s a tightening of the belt or friends and family that keeps one going during the hard times, a candidate who successfully gets through this type of predicament is a much better choice than someone who is gainfully employed but has been late on several personal accounts. Odd, isn’t it? But the fact of the matter is: credit “worthiness” is not based upon your job – if it was, then people with high credit scores wouldn’t be able to buy a home with no money down and without ever having to produce income or asset documentation. It’s up to you, but as long as the applicant’s credit is good, there is very little need to verify income and employment status. You may still disagree, but keep in mind this approach is only recommended for those applicants scoring at least 650 or above.

If you do go ahead with contacting the employer to find out as much information as possible, then the best way to proceed is with a standard form called a “Verification of Employment” (VOE). This form enables you to approach any employer – large or small – in a professional manner, so you are given the attention you deserve. You may still be at the bottom of the stack, but at least you’re not in the shredding pile. The VOE is designed to be faxed to the personnel director (whomever that may be; it may even be the owner of the company) to solicit a written and signed response, attesting to the applicant’s position within the company, their hire date, likelihood of continued employment, etc. While it’s a great form, don’t get your hopes up too high, as you will soon discover many employers don’t like to provide some of the information requested.

Verbal verifications over the phone are – for one – not documented. It’s always important to obtain and maintain a folder on your tenant, because you never know when you may need certain information. While it may save you some time to place a quick phone call (that is, if you can actually get through to the appropriate person), it’s a good idea to get the company representative to use the VOE – so you will have the same response but sealed with their name, title and signature.

There is one final item of note about employers for you to keep in mind. If you are taking the time to do this, you might as well be comfortable with the fact that the employer even exists. So, take an additional five minutes to see if the company is listed in either directory assistance, with the Better Business Bureau or with the department that governs the registration of businesses for your state (usually, the Secretary of State). There have been too many instances where people will actually have be deceptive enough to get a friend, sibling or cousin to act on their behalf and give them rave reviews all the way around – the exact same situation applies with current and previous landlords. Just be sure you are comfortable with the impression that you receive when speaking with the supposed “employer.”