Home Property What would you do if you were desperate to find a home?

What would you do if you were desperate to find a home?

20th Mar 24 8:44 am

It’s easy to say you’d abide by the rules when completing your tenancy application, remaining decent, honest and truthful.

But imagine what it’s like for the tenant whose credentials aren’t the best. Rents are rising but incomes aren’t, and those affordability criteria are getting harder to meet.

But you need a home, so would you tweak a figure or two?

I hope the answer is a clear no, but there’s plenty of evidence that more and more applicants are hoping to pull the wool over the unsuspecting landlord’s eyes. Figures just released suggest a 400% increase in fraudulent tenancy applications. That’s not an indicator of a fourfold increase in career criminality. It’s a sign of the times.

Landlords have always been told to have their wits about them and the importance of high quality referencing has been stressed many, many times. Hopefully, landlords know that scrutinising multiple sources of evidence is crucial. But perhaps they don’t know how easy it can be to fake or doctor evidence.

Everybody has access to a computer. It’s simple enough to change a few details or produce entirely fabricated documents that appear legit. AI isn’t helping either. The technology isn’t the preserve of a few businesses based in Silicon Valley. It’s everywhere.

Let me give you an example of a fraudulent application. It’s one we detected with Propoly’s Right to Rent Check service.

The applicant provided payslips showing a net income of £3,653.68. Bank statements showed that income paid into the bank was of £3,654.68.

That one-pound difference proved very significant. When we delved deeper, the named employer didn’t exist on Companies House. We had a phone number but the person who answered the phone didn’t know who the applicant was. We checked out the so-called employer’s address. It proved to be a vacant office.

To be fair, the attempt at fraud wasn’t that sophisticated. The evidence fell apart as soon as we poked at it. But I’ve picked this example because it’s both typical and disturbingly common. It’s the kind of thing we see every day.

Did you get that? Every day

Every day we see the giveaway clues. Documentation where printing appears badly aligned or digits are smudged. We find people giving their own contact details when asked to give details of someone who can vouch for them. People invent previous jobs. They hide criminal records. They cover up the words ‘Universal Credit’ on bank statements. Some people go online to ‘buy’ a respectable credit score.

We spot these attempts because we have two key defences: vast experience in this area and document screening technology. What’s more, because we know how important fraud-checking software is, we’re currently developing a version which will be embedded within our myNative referencing platform. Rather than relying on Optical Character Recognition (OCR), this Intelligent Data Capture (IDC) solution will use image, barcode, font, version, and metadata analysis for exceptional protection. If a non-Open-Banking applicant uploads a fraudulent bank statement, they won’t get away with it. We’ll spot it.

But, without our experience and technology, would you?

If you don’t, you could end up in big trouble. If applicants are doctoring evidence or inflating their income to secure a property, can they afford the rent month after month? What happens if they fall into arrears?

Often Landlords tell me they trust their gut when deciding whether to proceed with a tenancy. I don’t want to pour scorn on anyone’s gut instinct, but I’d urge landlords to think about the economic climate. It’s getting harder for people to find a tenancy. Those who would never have considered doctoring evidence in the past are doing so now. In large numbers.

And of course, large numbers of landlords could lose large sums as a result.

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