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I am looking for a room and I came across one Craigslist Ad. Please find the image below for the Ad:enter image description here

As can be seen above, there are lot of things that a landlord is demanding from a prospective tenant which I understand is good to filter some people who don't have good credit score. I visited the place two times and currently two students are living over there. I was ready to show all the documents but I really felt uncomfortable in showing my bank statements. Showing my bank statement means showing my full bank balance to a stranger.

On the other hand, I asked the landlord two times in two different emails to tell me little bit about himself. He somehow managed to ignore my questions. When I asked information about the landlord, he replied and asked me whether I am going through a Realtor ? He then said the following :

"You would have to do exactly what I am saying here... Your realtor would with your permission get your credit report and e mail it to he Agent representing the owner. I this case I AM the owner so you do not have to go through all those steps... I am the owner acting as a principal."

Also, when I asked one of the student living over there about the landlord, he didn't know anything about him except his first name. I finally cancelled the deal as I said no to show my bank statements.

Although a landlord has right to set his own rules for his property and there are lot of articles available on how to find a good tenant, could anyone tell me in this situation, what should a prospective tenant do to get some sort of information regarding the landlord. I mean a tenant would also like to feel comfortable with whom he is planning to sign a lease. What if the landlord's background is not clean or if there is something wrong with the landlord? Please advise.

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    Not clear how this is related to personal finance. In the end the answer is that you can ask the landlord for anything you want; if he says no, you can decide not to rent from him. Likewise the landlord can ask you for anything, and if you say no he can decide not to rent to you. (There are exceptions for non-discrimination purposes.) – BrenBarn Jan 7 '15 at 6:22
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    If you don't trust the lender - don't give him the info. It's that simple. Its not unheard of for landlords to dig deep into your soul. After all, a house is an expensive piece of property. – littleadv Jan 7 '15 at 8:01
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    I've seen landlords (including myself) ask for prospective tenant's social security numbers so they can run their own credit & background checks. So in that context, I'd say that seeing a bank acct balance isn't terribly invasive. – Jacob Jan 7 '15 at 16:33
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    @BrenBarn I know this is not related to personal finance. Could you tell me any other Stackoverflow section where my post fits well? I couldn't find any. Thanks – John Jan 7 '15 at 21:01
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    Now if they want a full HISTORY statement accounting showing every transaction in the last month+, then you can generally just tell them "no - I'm fine with proving I have money, but how and where I spend my money is not something I give out." If they balk, you walk. – BrianH Jan 7 '15 at 23:25
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There was a time when it was common for people to give first month's rent, last month's rent, and a deposit (of perhaps a month's rent). If you live in a major metropolitan area with rents above $2k, that starts to approach $10k to move in.

Viewing a recent bank statement is a way of verifying some reserves without demanding all of it be held by the landlord before move-in - in a way, this is almost a service to the tenants.

Your prospective landlord likely doesn't care if you cover up the bank account number, and just wants to make sure that he doesn't pick a tenant that is living hand-to-mouth.

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    I have seen that most apartment people run credit check. They don't ask for Bank Statements. Does credit check gives them access to my bank statements as well? Also, I think credit score (Excellent in my case) and credit reports (Excellent in my case) which I was ready to show to the landlord clearly shows for how long I am paying my bills on time. I personally believe, landlords shouldn't ask for that much information.They can definitely ask the tenant to leave if they found him living hand-to-mouth. – John Jan 7 '15 at 21:06
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    Credit checks do not give access to the amount in your bank statements - this is why your prospective landlord wanted them. Personal beliefs aside, the ability to pay your electric bill is probably only a small consolation to a prospective landlord, because at least in my city, they can't ask the tenant to leave just for living hand-to-mouth. Skating by without savings puts the tenant and the landlord at risk if the tenant ever has a job problem or a health emergency, and that's probably what the landlord wants to avoid. – chaqke Jan 7 '15 at 21:11
  • By any chance you know how can a tenant verify landlord's authenticity? I mean what if a landlord doesn't have a clean record or if he is involved in any other activities? Is there a way where a prospective tenant can inquire with some officials about the place before showing all the sensitive documents to a stranger? – John Jan 7 '15 at 21:19
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    That's really the same problem of making sure your waiter hasn't been convicted of identity theft before handing over your credit card. You could run a background check if he provided his SSN, or you could look up in public records who the owner of the property is, but in reality you're probably going on faith, like with the rest of your interactions with humanity. Getting a lease is always a good idea. So is paying the deposit with a check rather than cash so that it's traceable. – chaqke Jan 7 '15 at 21:33
  • Do you think that some one would ever provide SSN to a prospective tenant before finalizing the deal? Do I have a legal right to ask for someone's SSN and straightaway tell him I will be going for your background check? Also, who owns the property could be traceable when the landlord is at least ready to share his full name which didn't happen in my case. Secondly I would have preferred a 3-4 pages lease agreement which my current landlord gave me when I signed the lease. However, this particular landlord was telling me to bring a rental agreement copy if I have one already filled. – John Jan 7 '15 at 23:32
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If you want to try to make sure your new landlord is legit and doing things above board, make sure the landlord is providing the lease agreement plus any special conditions (and he/she allows you to thoroughly read through it), the lease has the full name and contact details of both the landlord/s and the tenant/s, and the landlord is providing you with bank account details for rent payments to be paid into.

Something else that can tell you something about the landlord is the condition and state of the property. If the property is well maintained and kept clean, the greater the chance that the landlord is house proud and wants to attract better tenants.

These things show that the landlord is acting professionally and is not only looking after his/her interests but yours as well.

Never go with a landlord who specifies that the rent must only be paid in cash and comes constantly over to collect the rent. These landlords are usually doing something on the side, usually try to hide the real amount of rent they get (for tax purposes), and usually end up attracting the worst tenants who can't find a place anywhere else.

Apart from the full name and contact details of the landlord, there is not much else that you could really ask about the landlord (well you could ask but you are unlikely to get). The reason the landlord asks and collects much more information from the tenant/s is because it is the landlords investment which is at risk, usually hundreds of thousands of dollars, they need to be able to do some risk management in order to protect their investment.

If, as a tenant you get a dodgy landlord, you can pack up your things, stop paying rent and leave (if a proper lease agreement is signed, then you can give notice and leave once your lease period is over). If the landlord gets a dodgy tenant, the tenant can stop paying rent, damage the property and refuse to leave when the landlord asks them to. The major risk is with the landlord, that is why the difference in the flow of information.

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