Dear PoPville – Bank Account Info on Rental Applications?

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“Dear PoPville,

I’m currently looking for new rental housing in The District so I’ve been making the rounds to countless not-as-advertised properties from craigslist and beyond. I have a question that maybe some of your readers could help answer. I’ve been filling out rental applications, mostly make-shift, for most of the places I’ve been seeing and they often have a space that asks for bank account information, particularly the account number. I understand that verifying the tenant’s finances may be important but I really do not feel comfortable handing someone I don’t know this info. What if they don’t destroy it properly? Also, it would seem to me that a great way to get a bunch of bank account numbers would be to simply host an open house on craigslist.

– Paranoid Renter”

28 Comment

  • jim_ed

    Why would they need your bank account number? I probably wouldn’t give them that regardless of their reason, but I’d at least ask why they need it. Sounds phishy.

  • Definitely scammy. There’s lots of foreign scammers advertising apartments. Nobody should ever ask for your account information at any point in the process, although you’ll probably need to give detailed info (not account info, though) after meeting to do a credit check.

  • ” it would seem to me that a great way to get a bunch of bank account numbers would be to simply host an open house on craigslist.”

    ^^^ this.

  • That sounds sketchy! I would suggest getting ahold of, or actually filling out, at least one application with one of the bigger leasing companies here in DC. Then you could use that as a point of comparison to these Craigslist-type applications.

    • You can probably even find the forms online for the bigger mgmt companies (Bernstein, Borger, etc).

  • andy

    How do landlords usually do a credit check, properly?

    • They take your SSN and do it that way.

      • I don’t even take that. I use a 3rd party service ( *They* get the SSN, etc, and give me a green, yellow, red opinion of the renter or renters.

        Really works well, and i’d encourage others to use it too.

    • I just have applicants pull a copy of their own credit report and submit it with the application. It may be that exposes me to fraud, but I’m not interested in all the issue that come with getting into folks’ personal information.

      For that same reason, even as a hyper-cautious landlord when it comes to vetting potential tenants, I don’t see why anybody would ask for account numbers. I’d basically ask them for printouts of balances on any relevant accounts, and they could redact the numbers as they saw fit.

  • Be careful, especially if you’re directed to on-line application forms. A few years back my building (a co-operative that doesn’t offer rentals) showed up on craigslist with an impossibly low monthly rent – something like $1,000/month for a 1BR in Adams Morgan. The listing directed people to a site where applicants were asked for all kinds of information like social security number, date of birth, etc. Major scam.

  • I’m a landlord and I don’t ask for bank account information on the application, or anytime in the process for that matter. I do ask for SSN, which is necessary for a credit check.

  • you don’t need an account number for a credit check. I don’t remember asking for account numbers on rental applications when I was renting my place out. I do think I needed a social security #. There are different levels of checks you can do. You pay for the service. I think I did the most basic which pulled up all previous known addresses and gave a letter rating on their credit (so an ‘A” was probably anything over 720). Do NOT give out your account number. A good landlord will call your previous landlord and may want to see a copy of your previous paycheck.

    • Found my current place of residence on Craigslist.
      I rent in AdMo but did not provide either an SSN or bank account number when I applied for/was accepted by my current landlord. I provided my prospective landlord’s with 6 mos. of pay stubs and a phone number and link to a service my employer uses for income/employment verification (would be a very good idea to find out if your employer has this type of service). I also provided the reference info from my prior place of residence and my landlord was satisfied with all of the above.

  • ThunderCheese

    I recommend landlord/tennant use something like TransUnion SmartMove. Landlord doesn’t see any SS# or account numbers, just a thumbs-up or down on the credit and criminal checks.

  • Just FYI – we have asked renters to fill out a credit check report with .

    The site sends a report/score to us and then we reimburse the person the $40 service fee when they pay their first month’s rent.

  • west_egg

    Definitely sketch. I think it’s just one of the standard questions on the average rental application template that most landlords don’t bother editing. So on the one hand you want to safeguard your information, but on the other, if you’re at an open house with 20 other people for a nice, decently-priced apartment, you don’t want to disqualify yourself right off the bat by being difficult. Sigh.

  • I saw this on an application once and just didn’t fill it out. I mean, even if they needed it to check how much money you have, I’m pretty sure the bank would realize it’s not you .

    Anyway, it worked out for me and I lived there for 2.5 years.

  • My landlord asked for this information on the rental application, and i just didn’t fill it out. I didn’t feel comfortable providing the account number (i did supply the amounts in each account, though) and he was OK with that — it was a standard/template type of application, so I assumed that it just asked for every scrap of info possible, and then the landlord decides what was relevant/important for him/her to have.

    When I’ve rented my house out before, I also downloaded standard rental applications and leases from the state (not DC) housing authority so that I would have all of my bases covered. There were a lot of things on there that I didn’t require. So, it’s not necessarily a scam per se, it could just be a small time landlord using a pre-packaged template.

  • I think the only time it might be legit is if you and a landlord you trust are setting up an electronic transfer method of paying your rent. (My landlord, a private condo owner, asked me to do this, but we ended up not going through with it.) However, I would only fill one of these out AFTER I already had the apartment locked down and a lease signed, and had done my due diligence on the landlord. Don’t fill out the information for any apartment for which you do not already have a lease, or for any landlord where you’re not sure of the sketch factor.

  • If it’s with a major management company, it probably comes with the territory–seems a little odd and superfluous to ask for bank account info on the rental application, because in many cases you’ll have to pay an application fee (usually to cover the cost of the credit check) and unless you decide to go get a money order and come back to the property, your personal check to the landlord will already have your checking account number on it. I suppose there’s always a risk that they won’t destroy the bank account info, but probably no more so than the risk of your info being used unscrupulously by someone working for any number of vendors and financial institutions who have your credit card or bank card or checking account numbers. (I rent with Bernstein, and had to fill out my SSN on the application plus provide a personal check for the application fee.) IF, however, this is some kind of online-only setup or an individual landlord, or something that instinctively feels sketchy or fly-by-night, go with your gut and pass up the apartment.

  • Echoing what other people said, my thought is that the bank info is just part of a template application and probably the landlords wouldn’t care if you left it blank.

  • It has been on many standard rental apps for years and years. And while it doesn’t give you a good feeling, it isn’t that big a deal — every time you write a check you are giving that person your bank account number. SSN is much more dangerous to give than a bank acct number.

  • I would think a print out of your current account balance would be enough. Needing the number is indeed sketchy .

  • This is a good point. Checks have your account and routing number printed right on ’em.

    I like the 3rd party credit check method.

  • It’s not sketch at all. I’m a landlord and the rental application forms that I use that were provided to me by my agent (who works with DCAR and NVAR…realtor orgs) have those in place. Honestly, I don’t really care if they don’t fill out the bank account number, but I get a bit suspicious (not to say that I don’t rent to them). Its standard operating procedure. Google it. Oh, and I actually lock all those forms in a fire-proof safe as I’m worried about identity theft for my renters (yes, some landlords care).

  • Regarding Alan’s comment…oh hell no I don’t accept print outs of any bank info. I know how good Photoshop is 🙂

  • In my experience as a Real Estate Broker in the District. Most rental applications request Bank information. Particularly the ones used by real estate agencies and property managers. When your credit is pulled your bank information and acct number(some portion of it) comes up. It is away to verify who you are as well as any assets you may or may not have claimed on your app.

  • Last winter I found an apartment that I really liked…the landlord said his ‘realtor friend’ was handling everything…he wanted bank information, credit card information, health insurance information, copies of contracts (I do contract work)…basically quite a bit that was none of his business…I liked the place so much I actually danced around with him for over a week…everytime I would provide something he would come back with something else…when he said I had unpaid medical bills (I don’t) and wanted to know why I had an outstanding balance of $7,000 on my Amex (my balance was $120) I finally got fed up…I told him that I felt he was insulting me and he could keep his place…a few weeks later I found a nicer place and was approved for it in less than 24 hours…

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