Tip #13

Check a Photo ID

Written on October 23, 2012 by , updated on June 7, 2014

Check a Photo IDAlways check the photo ID (preferably Gov’t issued) of a potential tenant before you sign a lease.

Identity theft is at an all time high so you want to be 100% certain that the person living in your property is in fact the person on the lease.  If a potential tenant isn’t competent enough to produce a simple photo ID, then how can you trust them to produce rent on a monthly basis?

If there is any question about their identity, you can deny their application based on “lack of sufficient identification”.

Tenants that want to remain nameless, or use aliases, are individuals that are trying to hide from someone or something.  Apart from a certified letter from the witness protection program, you should always know who is living in your rental.

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5 CommentsLeave a Comment

  • Umesha Shetty


    I have an applicant who emailed a “learners permit” issued two days ago and wife’s DL with a different address (old address ?) but issued about 18 months ago.
    I am yet to receive an application via Cozy.

    Applicant is in Boston and property is in Florida.
    What are the precautions I need to take to ensure I am not getting into an “Identity Theft” scenario?

    • Lucas Hall

      Hi Umesha,

      Personally, I don’t consider someone to have officially applied until they have… well…. submitted an application.

      Cozy provides you with unique link that you can give your tenant for that property. Once they fill out the application, you’ll get notified immediately. If the person can’t even fill out an application, then they immediately disqualify themselves. How will they successfully be able to pay rent if they can’t even full out an application?!?!? Anyway, I suggest sending them the URL one more time, and if you don’t hear from them, then oh well!.

      Here’s a guide to finding the URL for your application: https://support.cozy.co/entries/24008247-How-do-tenants-apply-to-my-property-

      As for the Photo IDs – I personally would accept the learner’s permit as long as it’s a government issued photo ID. You just want to make sure that the face matches the name. A passport would also be acceptable.

      One of the best precautions that I’ve found is to have Experian verify their identity through Cozy. The way you do this is by collecting applications through Cozy, then requesting credit reports from the tenants. The tenants (through Cozy) work with Experian to pull their credit and share it with you. In order to pull their credit report, they need to verify 3 security questions that only the real person would know. A scammer would get stuck, and would not be successful at pulling his/her credit.

      Here’s a guide to requesting their credit.

      I wrote a thorough guide to Tenant Screening. It’s free, check it out: http://www.landlordology.com/landlord-guides/landlords-guide-tenant-screening/

  • Shirley Duerkse

    Hi Lucas,
    When do we check their photo ID? As we give them the link to the Cozy application? After they have filled out an application? Or just before they sign the lease? Do I need to ask them for a copy of it for my records or just verify that the picture on the ID looks like them?
    My husband and I are very new at this landlord thing and are hanging on every word that you and Landlordology has to teach us. We have just advertised using Cozy, and received many calls in response. We’re excited to start showing the house to several potential applicants this next Saturday. Any advice about when to ask for the photo ID and proof of employment (paycheck stubs) would be helpful.

    Thank you so much for your help in advance.

    • Lucas Hall

      Hi Shirley,

      Checking a gov’t issued ID is a best practice but there’s no set time when it should be done. You can do it as early or as late as you want in the screening process. But please check it before you sign a lease. Once you sign that lease, it’s too late.

      Some folks like to keep a record of it, others just want to see it and make sure the picture matches with the person standing in front of them. For me, I generally take a quick photo of it with my phone, or ask them to send me a photo of it (if i’m communicating over email). That way, it’s easy for me to save it somewhere.

      I usually don’t ask for a copy of the paystub until after I’ve invited them to apply. I usually just say, please fill out the application on Cozy (and pay for the credit/bkgd reports), and email me a copy of your last paystub. Since Cozy verifies their identity with Experian through security questions, your task to check a photo ID is really just the cherry on top. I use the paystub during the screening process, but usually check the photo ID during the lease signing (if I do it in person), just to make sure the person signing the doc is the person I screened.

      I don’t suggest you check the IDs of people who are just looking at your property – it’s too soon – and it’ll scare them away. Only after they apply is it relevant.

      I hope that helps.

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