How You Gonna Pay?

By Robert L. Cain

Since the beginning of the pandemic, 76 percent of businesses have done it and 82 percent are changing a process, while 51 percent are transitioning clients to it.  Some 70 percent, say they’re “willing to invest in the technology required to advance their payment system,” reports It is something that both businesses and consumers will have to deal with.

That, of course is digital payment: its growth unstoppable. “It’s been clear for some time now that the cashless society would eventually become reality, with new technologies and adoption trends accelerating at a steady pace,” opined a July 28,2020 blog by They further claim that “cash is no longer king” and cite the example of Sweden, which has announced its goal of attaining a cashless society by 2023 with countries such as Argentina, and The Philippines not far behind.

“Consumers,” reports TDC Research, “have reduced their physical currency to half of what it was before the pandemic” turning to cashless transactions.  Worldpay reports the 30 percent of in-store cash purchases today are expected to drop to 19 percent by 2023.  And today, 48 percent of in-store purchases are by card and expected to increase to 52 percent by 2023.

Banks and credit card companies love it and governments salivate. Senator Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) quoted in a July 1, 2020 article in Forbes said, “The U.S. needs a digital dollar…The U.S. dollar has to keep earning that place in the global payments system.”

Every business and rental owner can look forward to dealing with this “modernization” as cash disappears.  Plans have been in place by companies such as Mastercard and Visa to completely eliminate cash for some time.  Central banks already have in place  digital payments or are testing it to discover its feasibility, reports Mastercard.  They call it “modernization” and a “level[ing] of the playing field for everyone.” Why it is either is a good question.

What is digital currency and what effects will its increasing use have on small businesses and rental owners?

Generally, digital currency is any medium of exchange that doesn’t involve the direct exchange of cash.  The Better Than Cash Alliance ( defines them generally as “an umbrella term applied to a range of different instruments. . . .”  Even checks can be considered digital since “they require the payee to have an account and are also traceable.”

All of the cashless methods require that no untraceable money, dollar bills, coins, etc. be exchanged.  The key is traceable, and we’ll get to that in a minute.

The professed advantages of digital payments are efficiency and speed, accountability and tracking, reducing corruption and theft.

How is it more efficient and faster?  First, money goes directly into the payee’s bank account, no deposit slips, no trips to the bank, no question that the money’s available.  Of course, it reduces theft in retail because there’s no cash to steal and any digital transfer is easy to track.

Eliminating cash also benefits the tax authorities because every transaction is recorded and easy to follow.  No more under-the-table payments to handymen, contractors, and illegals. 

Going cashless requires special equipment and bank accounts for the payee, but not necessarily for the payer.  We’ll get to that in a minute, too.  The particular issue involves small businesses and sole proprietors who receive cash payments.  They may not accept credit and debit cards now. That means buying special equipment so they can accept credit and debit cards. It can be as easy as an attachment to a smart phone that enables card scanning. Then, of course, they have to pay the discount on every transaction, 2.5 to 3 percent interest plus a per transaction charge.

It can present a difficult situation for handymen, and small rental owners and managers. When an applicant pays a deposit, it can be by check, but for many properties serving lower income tenants who are part of the 25 percent of people who are “unbanked” or “underbanked” that can mean they could not pay cash for their security deposits and rent.

Then there are transactions between individuals such as garage and Craigslist sales.  Most individuals don’t have a way to accept any payments except in cash (or checks).

People worry about having their every move tracked by government and businesses.  Since every purchase made with a card or contactless Apple Pay transaction is tracked.

Look for the burner-card solution. Just like burner phones, these are cash cards that are refillable and make payments anonymous.  Options from gift cards to prepaid Visa and Mastercard refillable cards are available.  That anonymity quest will become more prevalent at least until government finds a way to crack down on them, too.

Stores such as Target and Walmart offer them.  Some cards are refillable, some not, so if refilling is intended, read the terms and conditions carefully.  Others are refillable but require the person with the card to provide their Social Security Number.  So much for anonymity. One of the more interesting ones is the Starbucks card. Starbucks’ card is one that doesn’t require anything but plunking down the cash at a Starbucks and having the clerk and refill the money on the card.

People use them today for online purchases because of the limited amount of cash available put on the card, so any hacker who tried to use it would be sorely disappointed.  There are also the unbanked folks who use them when a credit card is required such as renting a car or buying a plane ticket.

The goal is to completely eliminate cash.  It won’t be this year or next year, but little by little we slide down the slippery slope to a cashless society. Banks and credit card companies say the elimination of cash makes it easier and cheaper for them and provides them with an entirely new way to keep track of purchases and thus add a new profit center by selling personalized ads, as Google does with searches on its website. 

Written for Zip Reports where they do employment and rental screening.

Contact Robert L. Cain at

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Red Flags on the Application

by Robert L. Cain, Copyright 2020 Cain Publications, Inc.

There you are with an incredibly good completed application in hand. Is it too good to be true? Yes, it most likely is, and it’s cause for extra special checking. Spot the red flags. We’ll look at six of them and how to spot them as they run up the flagpole.

Driver’s Licenses

You checked the applicants’ drivers’ licenses when you took their application. Your state requires that when someone moves they notify the Department of Motor Vehicles of their change of address within 30 days. DMV then issues a new driver’s license. You wrote the address on their drivers’ licenses on the Rental Inquiry Form.

Does everyone always tell DMV that they moved? Of course not. Dealing with DMV is a hassle in every state in the Union. But that doesn’t matter here. An address and issuing date does appear on every driver’s license. Most people have to renew their license every two, four, or six years, depending on the state, or when they’re 65 in Arizona.—the average is four years—so then they give DMV a current address.

Red Flag #1—addresses on drivers’ licenses

You compare the address on the driver’s license to those listed as previous addresses. You note that the driver’s license address doesn’t appear anywhere as a previous address on the rental application. Hmmm.

Credit Reports

Your applicants, assuring you that their credit was spotless, signed a sheet allowing you to pull their credit report. What you find when you get the report is telling.

Red Flag #2—addresses on credit reports

Their credit is not bad. There’s not much there, a couple of store credit cards that seem to have been paid on time, and a Visa card that has a low limit and is current. (They did forget about the one judgment, though.) The interesting thing is the lines at the top of the report right below their names—current and previous addresses.

You notice that their current address on the application appears on the credit report, but the address before is nowhere to be found. That address also doesn’t appear on the driver’s license. Now you have two addresses to be curious about.

 County Tax Records

In total, you now have five addresses. Three are on the rental application as previous addresses and two you have discovered from the applicants’ drivers’ licenses and credit report. You go online to the county tax assessor’s office. It gets interesting.

You find the property owners at each address. This is all public record, so you have no problem getting the information. Now you have four names and addresses of owners.

Red Flag #3—names and contact information on county tax records

The interesting thing about the “previous landlord” names on the rental application is that all three are different from the names listed as the owners of the property. It is possible that the “landlord” names could actually be property managers, but it is worth checking.

Looking the property owners up online in the white pages gives you two phone numbers; a call to directory assistance results in a nonpublished number for the third property owner. The nonpublished number is the current landlord. You’ll deal with that later.

Wow! Do you get an earful when you call the two property owners whose names you got from the county. Yes, they were the actual landlords, and, no, they didn’t have property managers. Some of the responses are not printable, but the gist of them was that your “near perfect” tenants left both rental properties in the middle of the night, owing considerable money to their landlords. These folks sure wish they knew where these sterling tenants were so they could serve them with a summons to appear in court to answer the lawsuit. You are happy to oblige.

There’s still more fun to be had. Remember the two addresses that weren’t listed on the rental application? You get phone numbers for both those property owners, too. Your calls to them result in even better information. They tell you about the police visits to the unit. These landlords would also like the current address of your applicants. “Anything to help,” is your response

Red Flag #4—names and phone numbers of previous “landlords”

And the fun isn’t over. What about the phone numbers that the applicant listed on the application as current and previous landlords? First you look them up in the online reverse directory and discover that one of them is listed to someone with the same last name as your applicant. Your decision’s obvious about renting to this applicant, but you call them just for the entertainment value.

The conversation goes like this:


“Hello, this is Joe Landlord. I’m calling for a reference about Jerry Applicant.”

“Yes,’ he says immediately, “he lived here six months, always paid the rent on time and was a terrific tenant.”

“Thanks. And just for my records, what is your name?”

“Bill Landlord.”

“Thanks, Bill.”

Now you know for a fact that you just dialed the phone number of someone with the same last name as your applicant. Nobody named “Bill Landlord” lives at that phone number. You also know, from having called landlord references in the past, that they never have all the information about a previous tenant right at their fingertips; they have to look it up. So even if you had called these people first, before you verified anything, you would have been suspicious about how fast they were able to answer your questions about the applicants.

Red Flags #5 and #6—Employment and income

The employer listed on the application does exist, but the phone number is different from the one on their website and the yellow pages, not even the same prefix as on the application. Another interesting thing is that all the dollar amounts for income are in round numbers, another red flag.

You call the number of the company you find on their website and talk to human resources. Yes, he works there but has for only three months, not three years.

The old axiom “if it seems too good to be true, it probably is” applies here. What seemed like the perfect tenant is a perfect tenant from hell. Your simple verification of the information on the rental application saved you the same fate as the landlords who weren’t as careful when they rented to these folks.

Written for Zip Reports where they do employment and rental screening.

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The Emotions of Eviction

By Robert L. Cain, Copyright 2000 Cain Publications, Inc. and 2020 Property News Service

Evictions are ugly. The tenant is getting booted out of his or her home, albeit rightfully so. And the landlord is in for untold emotional, financial, and legal hassles.

A landlord’s eviction-induced emotional headaches fall into three categories: guilt, shame, and anger. Evictions rank up there with other high-stress events—marriage, moving, and IRS audits.

Intellectually you know the tenant had it coming, but you still can’t help feeling guilty about the eviction. Should you feel guilty?

Maybe you should feel guilty. Your tenant may have lost his or her job because of the pandemic and hasn’t been able to find another or get enough government assistance to pay the rent. You have to feel bad for your tenant. But your mortgage payment is due and you don’t have enough in the rental account to cover that much less keep up with the maintenance required to maintain your property, your investment, in tip-top shape. Meanwhile, having someone living in the property adds wear and tear that requires additional upkeep that you don’t have the money to do.

Maybe you shouldn’t feel guilty. The tenant is stealing from you. Even though he or she has a job and sufficient income, he or she just decided not to pay the rent and counts on avoiding eviction because of the eviction moratorium. That tenant has stolen your property, possibly stolen your utilities, and definitely stolen your hard-earned investment. That tenant is a thief.

If you want to give your rental unit away rent-free, shouldn’t that be your decision and not the tenant’s? Finally, ask yourself: what if I didn’t evict this tenant? What would be the result?

Shame and guilt arise from the suspicion that you somehow failed with this tenant. The nagging feeling lurks in the back of your head that if you had done better selecting a tenant or helping your tenant work through a difficult situation, you wouldn’t be going through this mess now.

Evicting the tenant is akin to the shame of admitting that you made a mistake. Maybe it was bad applicant screening to start with, but aren’t you better off looking at the eviction as a lesson learned, cutting your losses, and getting on with business?

Maybe you didn’t select your tenant badly, but the tenant changed. A good friend of mine, also a landlord, evicted a tenant a few years ago who for the first year, had been a model tenant, but almost overnight she metamorphosed into someone with an eviction wish. Wild parties, not paying the rent, and refusing to speak to her landlord, other than rudely, led my friend to the conclusion that she was doing drugs. Without shame or guilt, he evicted her.Anger is the emotion of “they took advantage of me,” and “I’ll show them!” “Showing them” is a splendid idea.

Just make sure that when you “show them” you don’t make a mess of the eviction. Too often anger results in landlords making one of the 14 mistakes that lose an eviction, the ones I explain in my book Evictions: How to Win (or Lose) Them.

Very common is writing something extra on the notices demanding payment of rent such as “Pay Up, Deadbeat!!!” and “I don’t care if you pay or not; you’re out!” Extra comments on forms and letters, even possibly innocuous ones, will ensure that the judge lets your tenant stay, often rent-free, for a few months.

Another anger-induced reaction and way to lose an eviction are harassing the tenant. That’s when you call or text—daily, twice daily, hourly—to say that you want him or her out, or you repeatedly visit the property to “see if he’s moved yet.” Hold your temper or hire an eviction specialist to deal with the situation. The emotional and financial cost is infinitely lower than the trauma of a lost eviction.

Evictions are an unfortunate fact of business life for landlords. You don’t need to feel guilt or shame because good business practice demands that you keep your anger under control and you protect your investment.

Evictions: How to Win (or Lose) Them

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How Working from Home Affects Employers and Landlords

By Robert L. Cain

Some 80 percent of people would like to work from home reports a Gallup poll taken even before the pandemic.  By the end of 2021, 25 to 30 percent of employees will be working from home estimates Global Workplace Analytics. We have a promising situation that affects both employers and residential landlords.  We’ll look at how both can best approach the increasing number of people working from home. 

A survey reported by reports that employers have found that working-from-home employees are 20 percent more willing to work more than 40 hours a week, that they “spend less time on solving personal issues, and that 69 percent miss fewer days from work than those who work in an office. That’s in addition to 50 percent less turnover.

A Penn State University study found that each employee who works from home saves a business $11,000 a year because of lower office rent, utilities, and other expendables plus job stability. 

A huge benefit to employers is that the pool of possible employees is exponentially larger since they don’t have to live in the same area as the employer. A Los Angeles employer could hire someone from Savannah, Georgia, to work from home without their ever coming to Los Angeles.

Not every person is a candidate for working from home, though.  The website lists some essential qualities for a remote worker. One is self-motivation. Working from home, there’s no one standing over them to ensure they are working and doing what they need to do.  For many people, who are used to having a boss tell them what to do every minute, that can be a problem.

Another is the ability to prioritize. That goes along with the self-motivation  but goes further in that some people equate being busy with being productive. They need to be able sort out what tasks are less important and what tasks are essential.

A third is problem-solving ability.  Issues come up, guaranteed. Here employers need to “delve into past experiences,” says the article. They suggest asking the candidate about a situation in which they “found a creative way to overcome a particular obstacle.”

Fourth is good written communication skills.  You can tell a lot by the cover letter from a job applicant.  Writing must be clear, easily understood, with error-free spelling and grammar.  If they can’t do an effective job with a cover letter, how well do you think they would do with daily written communication?

A couple of things the article left out are just as important as the personal characteristics of the job applicant. One is tech and computer savvy.  Working from home requires expertise in operating a computer and using the internet.  But if a candidate doesn’t have adequate computer equipment and the knowledge to use it, look for nothing but problems.  Even millennials who have grown up with tech don’t always have the knowledge and expertise to do what needs doing with computers and software.  Those who have done nothing but use apps on an iPhone could be lost using Word and Excel. 

And the physical setup of the home office is of vital importance.  It takes more than a card table with a laptop set up in the dining room for a proper home office. Employees may need to deal with important documents and information that the business owner would rather no one but employees had access to. 

That means a proper home workspace.  For many work-from-home employees security and proper equipment is essential.  We’ll look at what’s required when we look at how rentals might need to be set up for home-office work and how that can be used in marketing.  Employers who are hiring people to work from home would do well to establish minimum requirements for home office setups.  That could save time in interviewing otherwise qualified applicants who don’t have acceptable home offices.

First, applicant tenant must have an up-to-date computer, appropriate monitor, and software.  That’s in addition to acceptable broadband connection.

An employer may provide proprietary software specifically for the business, but often the employee will just need software that one normally uses in an office.  In addition, though, the browser and search engine the employee uses are important.  They need to know how to keep their online activities safe from spying eyes. The search engine is of vital importance.  Much search information going out over the internet is available to whomever will pay for it.  Searches are not private on most search engines and some searches might even be able to identify specific individuals.  That could be a huge security issue for a company.  A better option is, which doesn’t track searches much less sell the information to anyone.

Second, your employee must have up-to-date virus protection and firewall software and a unique password  on the router.  Often people use the default password which can be found on the back of the modem or router. 

Third, devices in the home that are connected to the internet could present a risk.  They are ubiquitous. I have an iPhone, an Amazon Echo, two Kindle Fires, and two Amazon Fire Sticks.  Some people have thermostats, front door locks, front-porch cameras, baby monitors, and internet-connected cameras.  Those all need updated firewalls because they could be hacked by a hacker burrowing his or her way into the home-office computer.

Those three things are of big concern to employers. But residential landlords have additional concerns for amenities for tenants who work from home.

First is access to high-speech internet. Without that, work-from-home employees won’t even look at a rental property.  And since security is essential, a relatively secure area to work is crucial. Ideal would be a bedroom with a locking door that could be used as office space.  That is mostly up to the tenant to deal with but is also a concern for the landlord.  An employee without a proper home office space might not be the ideal employee and could lose his or her job and thus the ability to pay rent.

In addition to the lockable room, a printer a filing cabinet (lockable), a fire safe, a paper shredder, and an uninterruptible power supply are all important.  Marketing rental property with information about how it meets the needs for a home office can be a huge advantage to landlords. 

With the number of people working from home growing, possibly even exponentially, an updated approach to hiring and renting will benefit both employers and landlords.

Written for Zip Reports where they do employment and rental screening.

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As We Give Up Our Rights

Copyright 2020, Property News Service. May not be reproduced without the written permission of the publisher except for sharing on Facebook.

Let’s get one thing out of the way to begin with. the Covid-19 virus does exist and it’s making people sick, some worse than others, some fatally, some barely noticing it. It doesn’t matter if it was deliberately released from a Chinese lab, accidentally released, or naturally occurred in some forest somewhere and transferred to humans.  That’s a discussion for another time and one that may well show the despicable behavior of government but is not the point of this article. There’s enough other contemptible government behavior that we’re going to look at now.

Let’s get another thing out of the way. They have sucked you in with a red herring worrying about whether your rights are violated having to wear a mask. They are happy to have you ranting, raving, and protesting about that. The actions precipitated and excused by the pandemic are leading to far more egregious violations. If you get in a dither about mask-wearing and about social distancing, they figure you will aren’t paying attention to what government has planned to do to us.

Just think, people are begging to have their rights taken away so they can remain “safe,” much as they did after September 11 when Congress passed the Patriot Act. Oh, they’ll remain safe from the virus, all right, but they won’t be safe after their rights to free speech, their rights to freely assemble, their rights to travel unhindered on the roads, their rights to use their property as they see fit, their rights to be free of illegal searches and seizures, their rights to avoid arrest without probable cause and adequate warrant, their rights to a fair and speedy trial, and many others are swallowed up by a government eager for more power and domination.

Governments are gleeful that you are irate about the fact that you are supposed to wear a mask, that the virus may not really exist, that the virus might have been purposely developed in a Chinese lab and deliberately released upon the world.  Worry about all those things and they can continue on their nefarious plan to stifle the Bill of Rights into mere “outdated” words on paper, all with our permission because of our fears, and all with our paying attention elsewhere.

Let’s start with free speech. Private companies have every right to restrict what people can say on and in their businesses.  That means, as irritating as it is, Twitter, Facebook, YouTube and others can remove anything they like from their sites, just as Target can remove anyone it wants whom they consider disruptive or bad for business.  The scary part is, government drives these restrictions on free speech. If you write or say something considered racist, homophobic, sexist, terrorist, or whatever, they can call you out on it. Mind you, no one has ever delineated or defined exactly what is considered racist, homophobic, sexist, terrorist, or flying in the face of the absolute fact that the virus exists and that government is doing everything it can to kill it off.

Amendment I

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.

When private companies, albeit with the sanction and encouragement of government, do that long and consistently enough, people fear speaking up lest they be labeled racists, homophobes, sexists, terrorists, or purveyors of false information.  Big advantage for government because then they can go ahead with their plans to eliminate the First Amendment.

Even worse, now we see reporters being arrested in spite of the fact they are clearly identified as news media.  This appears to be an attempt to silence dissent and/or accurate reporting by the news media of government malfeasance (police, DHS, government officials, etc.), an obvious violation of the First Amendment.

And there’s more to the First Amendment than just free speech.  Many state and city governments have restricted the right to freely assemble saying that if more than 10 people get together in one place. They are in mortal danger of contracting the virus.  They can drag this fear mongering on for years, long enough so people inure to the idea that they can’t physically meet in groups. After a while, the idea never occurs to them because a bunch of people in one place is “dangerous.”  Sure they can meet online with Zoom or GoToMeeting, and that’s better than okay with government because government officials can easily hack into those meetings to find out if seditious ideas are being discussed and seditious plans formulated.

Likewise if you want to start your own newspaper or website devoted to exposing the actions of the government.  Because what you wrote is racist, homophobic, sexist, terrorist, or flies in the face of “science,” they will be able to shut you down.

Of course, if you want to petition the government for redress of grievances, not to worry.  Go ahead, sign petitions and write letters to Congress and the president; they will be assiduously ignored.  And since you can’t gather together in groups like the million man march because it’s not safe, government needs pay no attention at all.  You blew off steam and now you can calm down and watch Monday Night Football and the NBA Finals.  But the powers that be won’t completely ignore you. Your name and information will go into the Department of Homeland Security database just in case you “try anything.”  They’ve got you.

Then, as long as we’re on the subject, the Department of Homeland Security is more and more acting as the secret police department.  We’re not allowed to know what they do or whom they target because our knowing would be a “danger to national security.” They storm into cities with the ostensible excuse of protecting federal property, against the wishes of local and state government. Hearken back to the Patriot Ace of 2001. Here is how the law defines terrorism:

(5) the term `domestic terrorism’ means activities that–

`(A) involve acts dangerous to human life that are a violation of the criminal laws of the United States or of any State;

`(B) appear to be intended–

`(i) to intimidate or coerce a civilian population;

`(ii) to influence the policy of a government by intimidation or coercion; or

`(iii) to affect the conduct of a government by mass destruction, assassination, or kidnapping; and

`(C) occur primarily within the territorial jurisdiction of the United States.’

That covers just about any civil unrest, doesn’t it, and makes any demonstrator candidate to be called a terrorist.

Amendment IV

The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects against unreasonable searches and seizures shall not be violated, and no warrants shall issue but upon probable cause, supported by oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched and the persons or things to be seized.

We gave away our rights against unreasonable searches and seizures with the Patriot Act along with the airport violations of our rights.  Today, people just accept it because “that’s the way it is” and we feel safer.  That, of course, is despite the fact that untold contraband can get through “security” at airports.  An ABC News report June 1, 2015 explained, “According to officials briefed on the results of a recent Homeland Security Inspector General’s report, TSA agents failed 67 out of 70 tests, with Red Team members repeatedly able to get potential weapons through checkpoints.

In one test an undercover agent was stopped after setting off an alarm at a magnetometer, but TSA screeners failed to detect a fake explosive device that was taped to his back during a follow-on pat down.”  No, the indignities perpetrated on the traveling public make us feel safer but don’t protect us much at all.  But the important thing is they inure us to Fourth Amendment violations and eventually make accept any and all other violations of our rights, and that’s what government counts on.

The Border Patrol has to right to set up checkpoints and stop all traffic within 100 miles of the border.  We came to accept that as protecting against something, what we’re not sure. It’s one thing to ensure people crossing the US border are legally permitted to enter the country but something else again to stop everyone on public roadways inside the United States. Never mentioned is economic effect of the checkpoints: the ghettoization of entire sections of the country, at best stagnating and at worst destroying the economies of cities and counties south of the checkpoints.  What large employer would locate inside these ghettos?  The hassles would not be worth it. Of course, the Border Patrol denies any harmful economic effects but can’t produce any studies that prove they are neutral.  When asked directly at a community meeting in Green Valley, Arizona, a number of years ago, the sector chief of the Tucson sector said that they “had not found” any ill financial effects because of checkpoints.  When asked what studies showed no adverse economic effects, he was unable to cite any evidence or produce any studies.  But we have come to accept those checkpoints as necessary to keep us “safe.”

Then there’s the spying on US citizens.  That began in earnest with the Patriot Act.  And we have come to accept the wiretaps, the hacking of the internet, and the accumulation of data on American citizens along with the secret indictments through the FISA courts.

The point is, they violate our rights but people come to accept it.  government is in this for the long haul.  They slide these violations of our Constitutional rights into law and then wait for people to think, “that’s just the way it is.”  It doesn’t take long.  And young people growing up now will accept it as normal, never knowing how their rights have been violated.  All while the red herrings direct our attention elsewhere.

“Those who would give up essential liberty to purchase a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety.”—Benjamin Franklin

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One Way to Avoid the Danger of Squatters

By Robert L. Cain

They can move in and be a nightmare to get out.  These are bad tenants, but not the run-of-the-mill bad tenants a landlord actually rented to; they might be described as bad tenants on steroids.  They are squatters. Somehow they get access to a vacant property, maybe by breaking in, or maybe by getting a key from a landlord.  Here’s how it works.  Since we may no longer physically show a property, what with the concerns about infections from the Coronavirus, what do we do? We either leave a key for them or we put a key in a lockbox and give them the code.  Then they “squat.” Good luck getting them out.

Believe it or not, squatters have rights,.  Call the police, but the police in most cases won’t do anything.  One case, squatters had had gone so far as to dummy up a hand-scrawled rental agreement, even forging the signature of the property owner. The owner called the police, who looked at the scrawled rental “agreement” with the phony signature, said it was a civil matter, and left. The job of the police is to uphold criminal law and let civil infractions be handled in the courts.  Yes, I know, they’re stealing the property, but that’s not how the police view it.  if a squatter does show up on a property. Zillow suggests the following actions:

  • Immediately call the police: Simply calling local law enforcement may avoid further action. The police will be able to determine if the person is a trespasser or a squatter, and they will either remove them or inform you that a civil suit is necessary.
  • Serve an eviction notice: Some squatters may leave right after they’re served the notice.
  • File a civil lawsuit for the squatter’s illegal use of your property: Procedures vary lcoally, so check your local laws, but typically you’ll need to attend an eviction court hearing.
  • Have the squatters removed by local authorities: You may be charged a small fee, but it’s a safe option for removing squatters from private property.
  • Legally handle any belongings squatters leave behind: Some personal items may be left behind — check with a legal professional before removing any of their belongings. You may have to hire a cleaning service if they created a mess. (

What a hassle! What a nightmare! It’s best, of course, if squatters never get into your property.  Worst-case situation, they are protected by state and local law and it can cost thousands of dollars to get these criminals out. But here’s one sure-fire way to at least avoid phony-prospect squatters—prequalification.

Chances are you’ve created a photo tour of your property either with still photographs or an actual video tour.  That piques the interest of a prospective tenant, but most people still want to see the property in person.  They need to not only see inside the property but also the outside and the surrounding area. Not willing or able to meet them personally, you provide access through a key. That’s where the squatting danger arises.  So before you let anyone physically tour your property, ensure they could eventually be actual, legitimate paying tenants.

Use an online application to see the property.  That means they have to fill out an application that shows they are who they say they are and show they meet your basic rental requirements. They need to provide picture ID, prove they have sufficient, verifiable income to rent your property, and a verifiable current address.  It’s not a complete rental application, only one that prequalifies your prospect, much like mortgage lenders do for home buyers. It only shows they are qualified to see your property. Where to get one in a minute.   

You need basic verification such as calling their employers and their current landlords, and verifying their presented ID, probably a driver’s license.  All that done, now they get to see inside, but not before.

Online rental applications are available from Zip Reports, from some rental owners associations though none that I called about rental applications for members returned my calls, and online. They don’t need to fill out an entire application, just their name, address, source of income, residence, and current landlord’s name and phone. The complete application comes after your prospect decides to rent from you. If your prospect won’t fill out the application, too bad for him or her. They may claim it’s “unfair,” “none of your business,” or some other lame excuse. But it’s your property and you have the right to say who can enter it. No verification, no access to your property.

They may also try saying you’re illegally discriminating against them, that it’s a Fair Housing violation. Wrong. The same requirements go for everyone regardless of race, religion, etc. The pertinent section of the Fair Housing Act, 42 U,S, Code §3604 reads “it shall be unlawful … (d) To represent to any person because of race, color, religion, sex, handicap, familial status, or national origin that any dwelling is not available for inspection, sale, or rental when such dwelling is in fact so available.” You aren’t saying the dwelling is not available only that you require verification that someone exists before you will let him or her enter it. Just be sure to keep copies of every prequalification application you get.

Here’s how to do it:

First, when you create the photo tour of the property, do it so it looks professional with good pictures and effective descriptions.  Lots of information is available online on how to do that well. If you are going to provide voice over, practice, practice, practice.  For text describing the property, proofread, proofread, proofread.

Second, create rental requirements and post them online either on your website or other internet rental sites along with the photos of the property and say that in order to physically view the property, the landlord must verify your information with picture ID together with proof of income and residence.

Third, use an application for prospects to fill out so you can prequalify them to view the property. They will be invited to view the property if they meet the rental requirements and can prove they would be qualified to rent.

Fourth, once you receive the application, verify everything before you offer them a key. And once the prospect views the property, follow up with them about what they thought of your rental and change the locks. Then thoroughly clean everything.

Will this process ensure you never get a squatter?  Of course not.  Squatters scout out vacant properties that they can break into and dare the property owners to try to get them out. But ensuring that every prospect who wants to tour your property is real and might be qualified to rent from you gets rid of one opportunity for squatters.  Check everything and verify everything.

Written for Zip Reports where they do employment and rental screening.

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10 Ways to Catch Fraudulent Applications

By Robert L. Cain, Copyright 2020 Cain Publications, Inc.

One in three rental applications contain some kind of fraud, reports in 2020, the company surveyed property managers and came up with that figure and others just as telling revealing the carefully generated fake documents landlords see on rental applications.  It’s usually income, but it can be far more devious than that. Of those who admit it, says the report, two of every three property managers have been fooled at some time by phony documents.

It’s easy to create a phony document, one that will fool many people, including landlords anxious to get a unit rented.  Time was when tenants had to work harder to come up with doctored documents to prove their rent-worthiness.  Now all it takes is a visit to a website.

Get It Rented!: Little-known tricks and secrets of marketing rental property to attract good tenants in good times and bad by [Robert L. Cain]

I checked out a few of those websites.,, and all promise quick and easy documents to prove whatever you want proved., for example, provides instruction and services for

“How to edit my paycheck stub
How to get my check stub online
Create a pay stub
How to edit a scanned document
Online PDF Editor
PDF Editor Service for Paystubs
Editing Scanned Documents
The PDF Editor Service
Editing Fake Paystubs Service
Editor of Fake Paystubs Service”

In addition, beside fake paystubs, they will create bank statements, credit reports, utility bills, credit card statements, and tax returns, running the gamut of documents meant to fool the less than diligent landlord.   Of course, they insist that they are just for fun and should never be used in real life; “Services provided here are only for Novelty, Education and Entertainment purposes.”  Another site even offers two people pretending to be employers and previous landlords to answer calls from anyone checking the application.

All of this has become epidemic recently because of how easy it is to create documents online.  With due diligence, you can easily flush out fraudulent documents and applications. The most important point is: BELIEVE NOTHING ON A RENTAL APPLICATION UNTIL YOU HAVE VERIFIED IT.

Find out after they have completed their fraud and moved in, and you most certainly have the right to evict these tenants, assuming you can actually still evict where your property is.  The average eviction though, reported the survey, costs $7,685.  And that’s just for the cost of the actual eviction.  It doesn’t include the lost rent and property damage done by a bad tenant. Never allowing them move to in to begin with provides the best protection for your investment.

Here are 10 things to do to ferret out a fraudulent application and keep from renting to a lying tenant.

  1. Make sure the application is completely filled out, no exceptions.  If your applicant has a bad attitude about your insisting it’s completely filled out, simply reject the application.
  2. How do the documents your applicant submits look? Are the numbers, account numbers, phone numbers, income figures, everything  the same across all documents?  Look at formatting to see if it is consistent in documents from the same source.  For example, does a bank statement look like the actual bank statement from that bank? Check spelling and grammar. Spelling and grammar errors are a sure sign of fraudulent documents.
  3. Call the telephone numbers on the application and documents to make sure they are working numbers.  Then compare the phone numbers on the application with the phone number of the current and previous employers, the ones you find on the employers’ websites or in the phone book.  No website? Be extremely careful.
  4. Verify start and end dates with employers and landlords to make sure they match what’s on the application.  If they don’t, ask your applicant about missing periods of time. The answer had better be good. Check with the current and previous employers to verify income.  Don’t rely on possibly phony paystubs submitted by the applicant.
  5. Look at Facebook and LinkedIn pages and online databases such as and to make sure the applicant’s employer is real.
  6. Check the applicant’s credit report to see if the dates and addresses match up with what’s on the application.  Don’t rely on a credit report an applicant provides; pull the report yourself. 
  7. Do a Social Search to see if the Social Security information is the same as what’s on the rental application.  People using a phony Social Security Number will show up with different names, addresses and dates than those claimed on the application or not show up at all.
  8. Call previous landlords for references. Check to be sure the phone number you are calling actually belongs to the landlord or manager and not a friend posing as a property owner.  One suggestion I saw recommends calling the numbers of previous landlords and asking if they have a two-bedroom unit for rent.  If they answer that you have the wrong number, that waves a huge, spotlighted red flag. Check county tax records online to see if the name of the property owner is the same as the landlord’s listed on the rental application.
  9. If you still haven’t rejected an applicant after finding inconsistencies, ask the applicant to provide hard copies of the documents or to print out the documents in your office.
  10. Spend the time to do a proper screening job.  The survey reports that property managers spend between four and ten hours on each application. Whatever time spent will be worth it if you find a fraudulent application and spare yourself a bad tenant and an eviction.

You don’t have to check every application if you screen in the order the application is received.  The first acceptable one, the one that meets your strict rental standards and passes muster can be the one you accept. Just be sure to make your rental standards are so meticulous that anyone who meets them will be an acceptable tenant.

Bad tenants, tenants who have a spotty or horrible rental history, are not going to start being good little boys and girls.  They’ll keep up their tricks as long as the tricks work and will learn new ones when the old ones wear out.  They’ve worn out their welcomes everywhere they’ve lived.  Don’t let them add your property to the list.

Written for Zip Reports where they provide applicant screening services.

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The New Normal After Coronavirus

By Robert L. Cain, Copyright 2020 Cain Publications, Inc.

The country will reopen sooner or later, and it will look far different when we become the “new normal.” More and more small businesses won’t be able to make a profit. Dominos will fall as the effects tumble into commercial real estate, residential real estate, schools, child care, and government. 


As restaurants reopen in Georgia, the governor says they will have to meet 39 guidelines. For some, those guidelines will mean they lose money every hour they are open.  Look for those requirements to be modeled for restaurants around the country. Some of the most profit-threatening Georgia requirements include allowing only 10 patrons per 500 square feet, limiting parties to no more than six people per table, encouraging reservation only, and not allowing people to congregate in waiting areas. 

Restaurants need a minimum patron per square foot to make a profit.  Cut the number of tables in half, and they simply can’t make enough money to stay in business. The larger chains may be “safe,” but smaller restaurants operate on a knife’s edge of profitability even in the best of times.  Cut their maximum patronage in half, and it slices their ability to stay open in half.

And there’s more. It can cost upwards of $10,000 to restock the refrigerators and bulk bins  before they serve their first meal. If the restaurant has already had to cut its possible patronage in half, it could mean just locking their doors forever.

Commercial landlords

As restaurants close, vacant storefronts will result.  Those storefronts will be difficult to rent because they just add to other small businesses that bit the dust during the pandemic.  Look for lower rents and rent concessions, but also look for foreclosures.  Shopping centers, which were hurting before all of this came about, will lose more tenants and the mall anchors will suffer because the shoppers who come to the smaller shops often end up at Macy’s, Dillard’s, Nordstrom, and others.  And with former giants Penney’s and Sears teetering, the vision of the vacant shopping mall looms large.

24-Hour Fitness is threatening to file Chapter 11 bankruptcy and Gold’s Gym has already filed Chapter 11 even though CEO Adam Zeisiff says they are “not going out of business.” These could be the biggest fitness center companies to fall, but there are lots more sitting on the same knife edge as the restaurants.  Fitness centers depend on lots of people signing up on a year’s contract and never being seen again.  Planet Fitness, for example, reports that half of its members never do more than drive by their gyms, possibly feeling guilty and thinking “when I have time. . .,” but never stopping in. It’s a good thing, too, because their average gym holds about 300 people but they may sign up 6,000 on year-long contracts.  

Because of the coronavirus people hesitate to go out in crowds, so fitness centers will have trouble signing anyone up.  Watch them begin to shut their doors.  According to “6,000 square feet. . . is the bare minimum for a quality fitness center.” But larger chains have considerably larger footprints. Gold’s Gym can take up 35,000 square feet, 24-Hour fitness up to 42,000 square feet, Planet Fitness 20,000 square feet. The average small business in a mall or storefront  is between 800 and 2800 square feet, only 13 percent to 46 percent of the square footage of the minimum fitness center size. But for the 42,000uare feet a 24-Hour Fitness takes up, a small business is only 2 percent to 7 percent as big. A fitness center closing can be a profit-killing hit to a commercial landlord.

Commercial landlords will also suffer in office rentals.  Why that is in a minute.

Residential landlords

Look for unemployment and fewer hours to be a problem even after the economy begins to come back.  The PPP grants from the government require businesses to use at least 75 percent of the money for hiring back employees, but they don’t have to be the same employees they laid off.  Some business owners will use that as an excuse to hire new help, not only to get rid of the employees they would have liked to have dumped when unemployment was 3.5 percent but also to pay lower wages.

That means rents will be lower many places and vacancies higher.  It will also mean that some  existing tenants won’t be able to pay their rent, and what with some cities prohibiting evictions, there may be no rent being paid at all for some units.  In addition, look for laws prohibiting rent increases.

This will require a rethink of rental requirements  and entirely new and creative marketing to attract qualified applicants. But there’s more.  Expect more draconian laws emanating from some cities adding to requirements for “sanitizing” rental properties.

Office Jobs

Restaurant and retail jobs require physical presence at the business.  But those people who worked from home present a different scenario. A YouGov study paid for by USA Today and LinkedIn reports that productivity increased when people worked from home.  Saving commuting time was a huge factor, 71 percent, along with fewer distractions, 61 percent, and fewer meetings, 39 percent. Those figures may be suspect since YouGov uses a fixed list of paid respondents but probably representative.

Even so, business owners will take notice.  If people can work from home and be more productive than sitting in an office, why does the business need some much office space?  Look for businesses to shrink their square footage, thus making it additionally difficult for commercial landlords.


Several different options have been presented for reopening schools.  Many will result in child care problems and teacher shortages.  One idea to enable social distancing has cutting the classes in half and students coming every other day. That means child care will be required for kids every other day, assuming that parents go back to work at a physical workplace increasing child-care costs enormously. 

Another proposal breaks the classes in half and opens up cafeterias and gyms for classes.  That will require more teachers and create a problem.  After hurricane Katrina for example, the New Orleans schools closed for four months. When schools reopened in the fall of 2007, only half the teachers returned.  There’s no telling if that will be the case with the schools reopening after the coronavirus, but some older, veteran teachers may decide to stay away until there’s a vaccine or the virus is completely eradicated.  According to the National Center for Education Statistics, 23 percent of teachers are between 50 and 59 years old and 7 percent older than 60.


Tax revenues have fallen because of a slower economy. The Pew Charitable Trust estimates that personal taxes, 38 percent, and sales taxes, 31 percent, account for the bulk of state funding.  If tax revenues continue falling, governments could well be in the position of having to lay off employees including even police and firefighters. 

Then there’s public transportation. According to a USA Today article May 4, “transit ridership demand has dropped 75% compared to normal,” In San Francisco, ridership has dropped 85 percent, in Detroit about 67percent and in Philadelphia 60 percent. The New York subway system is closing every night beginning at 1 AM for train cleaning.

That, of course, means more people who have trouble getting to work, are out of work and out of rent money.

The country will look far different when it reopens with more people out of work or earning less money, vacant storefronts, and businesses just trying to make a go of it before they give up and lock their doors.

Written for Zip Reports where they provide applicant screening services.

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Applicant Screening During the Coronavirus Pandemic

By Robert L. Cain, Copyright 2020 Cain Publications, Inc.

You would think that no one is looking to move right now what with the coronavirus issue, but people are.  A RentCafe study in February (of course before all the “shelter in Place” edicts began) found that 59 percent of the people surveyed said they would move “as soon as I find an apartment.”

Figure that number has decreased, but people may still look for a new place to live. To fill the vacancies we have, we need to think about a couple of things: marketing and screening criteria. To avoid contracting the coronavirus, marketing has to include how prospective tenants see a property online.  After that our screening has to take into consideration not only whether that person will be able to pay the rent now but also in a couple of weeks or a month.

First, we’ll look at here the tremendous opportunity we have to step up our marketing to set us apart from other rental owners and managers. Effective ways to get people’s attention involve presenting the property online not only with photos but with a 360 video walk-through with voice-over descriptions available. Show everything. People want a home office now, so if your unit has facilities for one, say so. They also want to have a place to work out at home, say so if your unit has something appropriate.

It’s important to do a complete showing, not just a couple of rooms (assuming that the unit is more than a couple of rooms).  In addition, post your rental requirements and standards along with the property information sheet you give your prospective tenants.

Unqualified people often will eliminate themselves if your rental standards and information sheet are worded appropriately.  One important item is the requirement that an applicant must have current verifiable income that amounts to at least three times the rent (or whatever your current demographics are), and that income must be in an industry that is not expected to close down and a job that is stable.

It is better to have no tenant than a tenant who can’t pay the rent.  While in many places you can’t evict anyone for non-payment of rent right now, you certainly don’t have to rent to someone whose income is questionable.

People want a home that is clean and “virus-free.”  Be careful here. Yes, you cleaned the place or had it cleaned and probably disinfected, but never even consider claiming that it is completely disinfected.  Should tenants become ill with the coronavirus, they could claim that they were assured that the unit was virus-free before moving in, and they got it from your property. Claiming to be virus-free is just asking to pay huge attorney’s fees.

Any prospective tenant you would be willing to rent to will want to physically see the unit before committing to renting.  We have a couple of options here.  One is to meet the party at the property, open the door, stand back, and let them do their own tour.  The other option is to have a lockbox on the door and you give the prospect the code. In this case, to protect yourself you must have fully pre-qualified the applicant with appropriate picture ID and verification of employment and income. Either way you do it, make sure to leave all the information they need to make an informed decision inside the unit along with an application form, as well as the application form online that they can submit there.

Make it easy to see the unit online and to communicate with you.  If anything becomes a hassle, figure they will go on to the next property even though yours is perfect for them. Just make sure they are perfect for you.  That involves careful screening.

Much of the screening is already done if marketing tells prospective tenants who is acceptable and the condition of the property shows that the landlord is businesslike and values his or her investment.  But there’s still lots to check.

It begins with the Primary Four requirements of every applicant, no exceptions EVER:

  1. Application must be completely filled out
  2. Must be able to verify income
  3. Must be able to verify all information on the application
  4. Must meet and see picture ID from every adult who will live in the property

But there’s more.  What you would normally do may not be enough to qualify an applicant.

What type job does the applicant have?  In this market, some jobs are simply too unstable for a landlord to take a chance on.  Restaurant and retail employees are a prime example.  If they haven’t been laid off already, chances are they soon will be. Yes, you can and should reject on the basis of the type of occupation someone has. 

Mortgage underwriters, for example, always look at the probability of continued income before they approve a loan, so there’s nothing wrong with your being concerned with the same thing. Make your applicant prove job stability in whatever way he or she is able.

What are the occupations that are least likely to be laid off?  Those that involves little interpersonal contact or is considered essential are at the top of the list. Construction workers of all kinds, landscapers, all the trades such as plumbers, electricians, and truck drivers all figure to be stable. First responders and the medical profession most likely have stable jobs, too. Good bets are also people who can work and/or are working from home.  Of course if the company they work for is about to go out of business, that is an important consideration.

But there’s more. Why is your applicant moving? It could be for any number of reasons that won’t affect their ability to pay the rent, that being a primary concern in this market. Of course the usual screening criteria apply, too.  Just verify everything as you normally would.  Why did they leave their previous rentals? Are all the owners names and contact information true?  Check county tax records for owners’ names and addresses. 

People move for reasons that have nothing to do with unstable job situations and incomes. And people move because their jobs are unstable or gone.  It’s just up to us to verify they will be good, rent-paying tenants who accurately and completely fill out the rental application.

Written for Zip Reports where they provide applicant screening services.

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Would Open Hiring Work?

  • Published on March 9, 2020

By Robert L. Cain, Copyright 2020

A mini movement is afoot. It’s one step beyond the ban-the-box edict and known as “open hiring.” That means that people with “nontraditional” work histories can get hired, no questions asked, no employment application, no background check, just put your name on the list and wait for the call. Those include ex-convicts, the homeless, drug addicts, alcoholics, refugees, those with immigration issues, and almost every other red flag an employer could run up. After the call, just show up to go to work. Is it effective? Does it actually provide jobs for the “nontraditional” employees? Or is it just a way to get cheap help and a smokescreen made to look like the employer wants to help the unemployable?

 Greyston Bakery is the original company using open hiring and has been since 1982. Recently they have been joined by other companies such as The Body Shop, Ovenly (a New York City bakery), and Hot Chicken Takeover (a Columbus, Ohio, restaurant chain). Some large companies, such as Target, Starbucks, and Walmart don’t do a background check until they have decided they might hire an employee, but that’s a far cry from actual “open hiring.”

 How it works is someone interested in a job shows up and puts his or her name on a list. The company calls when his or her name comes to the top and says “come to work.” At Greyston, they work in the warehouse stacking pallets or other jobs requiring no particular skill level. Mike Brady, CEO of Greyston was quested in a New York Times article as saying, “The candidate may not be so great at making eye contact and smiling. Does that mean he can’t stack brownies onto a pallet?” They are put on the payroll as apprentices for six months and after that time get to work as a regular employee—maybe.

 I read several articles looked at websites for more information, and Greyston in particular left me with unanswered questions. I got in touch with them, but they declined to answer these five questions.

 1.     How many apprentices end up being hired full time?

2.     How do you decide who gets hired full time?

3.     Do you ever learn what your apprentices’ criminal records are? If so, which crimes are the most problematic?

4.     How many apprentices leave before their apprenticeships are up?

5.     How many people who begin as apprentices later move into more responsible positions such as management?

 In fact, just about everything I read about Greyston looked like just PR. They tell heart-warming stories about people who have turned their lives around because they found work at Greyston. But they don’t respond to basic questions about their hiring program. Then there’s obfuscation from Dilara Casey, head of marketing at Hot Chicken Takeover. In evading-the-question style, she said, “Having a clean record doesn’t necessarily indicate that an employee is honest or trustworthy.” No it doesn’t and that’s why almost every employer screens applicants to learn, among other things, if they are honest and trustworthy.

 Screening applicants is essential not just to get the best employees but also to avoid legal problems. An article in, “An Employer’s Liability for Employee’s Acts,” explains, “Employers, and not the employees themselves, will often be held liable for the conduct of their employees. This is true even if the employer had no intention to cause harm and played no physical role in the harm.” Hire someone who is a danger to the public or other employees and run the risk of a negligent hiring claim. explains, “A negligent hiring claim is made when the filer believes that the employer should have known about the employee’s background of violent behavior. In these claims, the filer attempts to prove that the injurious behavior was to be expected based on past behavior that demonstrated that the employee was dangerous, untrustworthy, a sexual predator, or a thief, to name a few possible claims.”

 Honest, trustworthy, and competent employees can be ensured by careful screening of every applicant by checking former employers, doing criminal background checks, validating college degrees, drug screening, credit checks, explanations for employment gaps, and verifying everything on the application.

 One huge concern employers, and landlords, for that matter, right now is that ban-the-box is just the beginning. In the future, look for new laws restricting our right to make sure the applicant is telling the truth and competent to do the job he or she is applying for. Several states and cities already prohibit asking about criminal records until after an applicant has been otherwise approved. We all need to be aware, though, that there are people who consider ban-the-box just a first step toward restricting employers and landlords from doing any screening so everyone has an “fair chance,” in spite of the of the fact that many people already had their “fair chance” and blew it.

Written for Zip Reports where they provide screening services for employers and landlords. Visit their website.

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