Document Forgery In Rental Applications: How Fraudulent Tenants Are Circumventing The System  

Screening the documents of prospective tenants helps to minimise a letting agent’s exposure to rental fraud but with document forgery in rental applications a growing concern, it’s important to be aware of how fraudulent tenants might be circumventing the system. 

What to look out for

There are several areas that tenants may look to forge their documents as part of their initial rental application, including ID, references and financial and employment information.

Identity fraud will see tenants create false documents under their victims’ names. Or they may get hold of another person’s ID who they know will pass the tenant reference checks and use those for their application instead.

Meanwhile, when it comes to employment or financial documents, fraudulent tenants may modify an existing document to exaggerate their financial status. The more ambitious may even get creative and produce documents from scratch that overstate their ability to afford a property. Fraudulent tenants may also lie about their credit scores, using fake credit files to hide a troubled financial history.

The risk isn’t restricted to a tenant who may be forging documents to secure a standard tenancy. In the case of property hijacking a fraudulent tenant could even rent a property using fake documents, change their name by deed poll to their landlord’s name and then put the property on the market so it’s vital to beware. 

How to prevent document forgery

Knowing what to look out for helps to minimise the risk of fraudulent tenants using fake IDs and references to deceive letting agents and landlords. Awareness and vigilance of such tactics should be complemented by the tools available to you as a letting agent to thoroughly verify applicant information. You should also consider more in-depth background checks to prevent housing scams which would otherwise damage your reputation amongst both existing and new landlord clients.

Simple processes, such as tenancy checks and information validation through in-depth tenant referencing can help to capture document forgery. Meeting prospective tenants in the flesh is also a simple test.

While technology makes it easier for fraudulent tenants to forge documents it can also help to catch them, especially when artificial intelligence is incorporated. At HomeLet, for example, each rental application is checked against more than 500 million data points that include the CIFAS database and HomeLet’s own unique default database. Using multi-layered document analysis technology it will quickly inspect both the metadata and structure of documents ranging from PDFs, images or scanned copy to uncover any anomalies.

These changes are then identified and highlighted in pixelation to help detect forged images or documents. Most importantly, AI means that the system learns as it goes. This means that its detection capability only improves with time, allowing letting agents to stay ahead of the fraudsters.

HomeLet is one of the UK’s largest tenant referencing providers and has referenced more than 13 million tenants over the past 30 years. Our referencing products are available to all letting agents who work in partnership with the business. HomeLet’s Landlord Insurance also helps to protect your property and investment.