There’s a boogieman in town, and it’s called “identity theft.”
Landlords will cite identity theft when asking for your SSN, but there are actually a few other reasons.
- Eviction – SSNs are used for a federally-required search of a military database to determine if the tenant being evicted is a current member of the military or is a military veteran. This search is required before a toss-out can happen, as laws now give service members enhanced protections against the speediness of evictions. as leave can be hard to come by when deployed overseas or on duty in a stateside mission.
- Credit Reporting – landlords will sometimes report payments to credit bureaus. Those that report do so to protect themselves and other landlords from bad tenants, and to provide both carrot and stick enforcement of the lease. Further, if a tenant leaves a debt, the former tenant is punished with a reduced credit score.
- Debt Collection – landlords can use a judgment paired with data such as a former tenant’s SSN to sell the judgement-enabled debt to debt buyers who then go after the former tenant in return for a split of any payments received.
- Litigation – with an SSN, a landlord can pay a PI firm to perform a utilities check to locate a tenant’s new place. With an SSN, driver’s ID number, and birth date, a landlord can locate property such as motor vehicles and then file for a lien on the vehicle. Insurance payments are expected go to lien holders first, then the owner.
These four reasons are not inclusive of all possible ways a landlord can weaponize a tenant’s SSN and the identity verification process. In other words, it’s good to pay rent on time and in full.
BONUS – a landlord can also use the SSN to report income from forgiven debt to the IRS, assuming they jump through a few hoops first to qualify to report uncollectible debt. An aggrieved landlord can also attempt to contact social services and demand that the back rent be reportable to agencies that issue benefits, for inclusion into income calculations.
SOURCE >> The author is an occasional evictions agent for property owners.