I require pay stubs from the most recent 4 week and/or two months of bank statements. I then contact the company to verify:
A) the company is real
B) the income is reasonable
Brad hit the nail on the head that many large employers will give you the run-around and/or refuse to discuss a team member's salary. Or they'll force you to "TheWorkNumber" which will charge you an insanely high fee to get employment confirmation.
But the creative entrepreneur does NOT allow that to shut him/her down. Here's what I do now.
Me: "Hi, I am calling for an employee reference for Adam Smith, can you help me?
HR: "Well, all I can say is he works here. I cannot give you any salary info."
Me: "I understand you have an obligation to protect your employee's information. We do the same at our company. What I would like to know is this: Mr. Smith states that he is a (positions) and has worked for your company for (X) years. Can you confirm that?"
They will USUALLY give me that much info. Then I follow up...
Me: "And he wrote down $XXXX.XX as his monthly salary. I know you cannot give me specific info as to his salary, but if we were not talking about Mr. Smith, can you tell me that for any person who works at your company and who has his title and has worked there for about that length of time, is that a reasonable amount?"
MOST OFTEN this takes them off guard and they'll say Yes or No. Only 1 or 2 times have they absolutely refused to give me any more info, in which case the burden of proof goes back to the applicant. It is THEIR JOB to prove to MY satisfaction that they earn the money they claim to earn, and if they can't....that's their problem.
I take co-signers, but I have them apply, screen them, and have them sign the lease like anyone else even though they are not a resident. That makes them responsible not only for rent, but also for damages and lease violations as well. Incentive for them to keep on the person who does not qualify by themselves. They must own local (in state) real estate, have squeaky clean credit, and make at least 6x the rental income so they can cover their housing costs plus the rent in case the primary applicant fizzles out.
I only take co-signers for "fixable" issues like lack of land lord history or lack of 90 days minimum on the job. Basically, neutral stuff they haven't had the chance to acquire yet, such as first time renters and/or college students who may not have a job but have plenty of grant/scholarship money coming in. They aren't garnisheable, but their parents probably are, so Ma and Pa have incentive to stay on Junior to do things right!
I do NOT take co-signers for unfixable things like bad land lord history, criminal history, or evictions. --173.20.xxx.xxx