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6 Ways Tenants Scam Landlords (and How to Avoid Them)

by Rhenti on


Economic hardship and a push towards contactless tenant-landlord relationships are causing more tenants to scam their way into rental properties. 


Being a landlord comes with enough responsibilities, let alone worrying about what new scam is making its way around your neighbourhood. To help you know what to watch out for and avoid being taken advantage of, we’re sharing the six most common tenant scams below. 


1. Tenants who never planned on paying


Every landlord’s nightmare: the tenant who never had any intention of paying rent. Oftentimes this tenant looks good on paper, pays rent for a couple of months, and then shows their true colours. 


This might start as late payments that incrementally come to a stop altogether, or show up suddenly as a complete stoppage in rent altogether. 


How to avoid tenants who don’t plan on paying


To avoid this type of tenant, check tenants’ credit scores, validate their employment and previous landlord references, check their vibe in person, and pay special attention to signs of unreliability. Some examples are: always letting you know that rent is going to be late, having consistent excuses for not being able to pay, or missing a payment without any explanation at all.


Learn how to decide how much rent you should charge your tenant in Ontario.


2. Tenants who rent out your property without your permission


Another common scam is tenants posing as you, the landlord. After moving in, they might pretend to be the landlord of the unit, rent their space to other people, and pocket the rent themselves. 


If you’re renting out a unit in a building with a concierge, these tenants also sometimes work out deals with the front desk people. They might give them money every month to allow the illegal tenants in and out of the building without any trouble.


How to avoid tenants who rent out your property without your permission


Ask about any consistently short stays in rental histories, install a security system, and ask your concierge (if you have one) to let you know about any unauthorized guests. 


3. Tenants who sneak in other unauthorized tenants


Slightly different than acting as the landlord, tenants will sometimes not mention that they plan to have another person—someone not on the lease— live with them. This can, unknown to you, lead to more people in your units than the law permits, allow potentially dangerous people into your property, and cause other stresses.


To be fair, this doesn’t always happen for nefarious reasons. Avoid assuming the worst if you find unauthorized tenants in your space, as it might be as simple as someone deciding after signing the lease to have their partner move in with them.


How to avoid unauthorized tenants


Pay attention to sudden increases in energy bills, look for constant visits from unknown people in your security footage, occasionally pay a visit to your property (with proper notice), and vet tenants thoroughly before handing over the keys. 


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4. Tenants who overpay on purpose


This scam involves a tenant intentionally giving you a cheque with more money than they owe you (for rent, a security deposit, etc.) and asking you to return the extra amount. But when you go to cash the cheque, it bounces, and they get away with the real money you sent back. 

Although rarer, this rouse is also sometimes done through e-transfer, wire transfer, or other online payment methods (i.e. PayPal). The tenant sends too much money, asks that you return the extra, and then cancels the payment before it’s actually deposited into your account. 


How to avoid tenants who overpay on purpose


Verify with your bank that funds given to you by a tenant are in your account and available to withdraw before sending any money back. Receiving payments digitally is also generally safer than through physical cheques.


5. Tenants who take advantage of the system


Unfortunately, navigating eviction is a way of life for some people. They familiarize themselves with all the loopholes, get themselves in the door of a rental property with no intention of paying rent beyond first and last (if that), get served with an eviction notice, and then enjoy however long they have until they’re legally forced to leave. Then they repeat the process again and again, effectively living rent-free. Learn more about how to manage a non-paying tenant.


How to avoid tenants who take advantage of the system


Run criminal background checks on applicants, call previous landlords, and be wary of giving unaccompanied access to your property before checks have been done, rent has been paid, and a security deposit has been provided. The same goes for allowing tenants to stay longer than what’s stated in their lease, as even an extra day opens the door to opportunity.


6. Tenants who fake who they are


It would be great if you could always trust people with their word. But in the world of renting, people aren’t always who they say they are. To increase their chances of getting your unit, some people try to paint a better picture of themselves by giving you fake credit reports, landlord references, employment records, and other information. 


Obviously, this can lead to all sorts of problems down the road. What looked like a great tenant on paper could end up being someone who doesn’t pay rent, causes problems, and is generally a bad tenant.


How to avoid tenants who fake who they are


The best way to avoid misrepresentative tenants is by thoroughly vetting them, such as: 


  • checking into all their references
  • asking about their story in person or over the phone
  • inquiring about any holes that pop up
  • making sure area codes for phone numbers line up with where the references are supposed to be based
  • requiring two pieces of ID upfront


For more help, follow our Canadian tenant screening checklist.


A stronger, easier tenant screening process


By knowing what scams are out there, you can hopefully better and more safely attract, screen, and sign tenants. 

To make tenant screening even easier, sign up for Rhenti. You’ll automatically receive comprehensive renter profiles and application information, including credit summaries and reference information, to help you make the right renter decision.