The Consequences of Providing False Information on Your Rental Application

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The Consequences of Providing False Information on Your Rental Application

Lisa Wright · Sep 23, 2021
Directly above photograph of a rental application.

All renters must fill out a rental application before qualifying for an apartment. In some cases, this may only be a formality, or a way for the landlord to get a sense of your background, character, employment record/income (i.e. ability to pay rent), and past rental history. However, most of the time, landlords do run extensive checks on potential tenants, including credit checks and formal background checks. These checks may also uncover a tenant’s criminal record (if any). So if you plan to provide false information on an application, it means there is a good chance your landlord will find out the truth eventually.

So what happens when a tenant does lie on a rental application?

The Rental Application Process

It is likely that any untruths on the rental application will be found out before the lease is ever signed, as the majority of landlords will check their tenants’ background for things such as credit history and criminal record before proceeding with the lease. This is why it’s so important to be as open and up front as possible about your past as you begin the rental application process.

Chances are you’ll have to meet with a potential landlord or rental agent in person as you begin the process, and this is the perfect time to bring up any potentially damaging information face-to-face. Rental applications are in black and white, after all, and may not reveal the entire story behind information that comes up on a credit check or background check.

Things like past evictions and criminal offenses may cause a landlord to deny a rental application before hearing all of the facts, so tell the truth from the very beginning to avoid problems down the road. Additionally, it’s always good to establish open lines of communication with your landlord from the very beginning. This builds trust and may help you in future situations (i.e. if you need extra time with your rent, you need something fixed pronto, or you need a positive reference for your next rental).

After The Lease is Signed

Many applicants do lie on rental applications, whether it’s regarding income, past employment, or criminal history. Though it’s rare that a potential landlord will fail to uncover the truth, it is possible. However, this means that though your application was approved, it is still based on a lie — one with the potential to cause more harm further down the line.

A lease is a legal agreement, and your signature verifies that what is written there is the truth to the best of your ability. Lying could make a tenant subject to perjury if they knowingly provide false information, though it’s uncommon that a landlord will press charges.

But lying on a rental application does have consequences, even if they might not be legal ones. If a landlord discovers false information on a rental application after a tenant has signed, the tenant may be subject to eviction, and may even be requested to leave the premises without notice.

Additionally, if you’re evicted for lying on a rental application, the tenant’s rental history will be further complicated, leading to more trouble when filling out future applications. Evictions can happen for a variety of reasons. However, if you’re evicted because of a rental application lie, it will be that much harder to secure a future rental or a reference from your landlord.

Criminal Repercussions of Lying on a Rental Application

Though uncommon, a landlord may decide to file charges against a tenant that lies on a rental application, especially if the falsehood is discovered post-lease signing. Lying on a rental application is technically fraud. As mentioned above, you signature verifies that you are providing true information to the best of your ability, which means lying is basically knowingly providing a falsehood.

Every landlord is different, and, depending on the situation, certain landlords may feel a falsehood has cost them valuable resources, including potential rent from other tenants. If a landlord’s livelihood is negatively impacted by lies, they may be more likely to press charges.

However, every state has different landlord-tenant laws, and the consequences of lying on a rental application may vary. When renting, it’s always important to be aware of your rights as a tenant. Learn more about landlord-tenant laws here.

The Bottom Line

Lying on a rental application is never a good idea. Even if you get away with it initially, the fact remains that your lease will always be built on a lie, whether it’s about income, previous addresses or employers, or a criminal record. Telling the truth from the beginning will work in your favor more often than not, as it will show the landlord you are trustworthy and honest, and many landlords may still offer you the property based on character and openness. Some may even add an additional security deposit or change the rental agreement as an extra level of security for themselves and their other tenants. However, deliberately withholding information, or outright lying, will almost always cause future issues for both you and your landlord – and it will most likely effect your ability to rent in the future.

The bottom line? Honesty is always the best policy when filling out your rental application.

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