Category Archives: Landlord Tips

Using Facebook as a Tenant Screening Tool

This is a recent article from American Apartment Owners Association, of which I am a member.  This was posted on their blog today and I found the information to be especially helpful for landlords:

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Q: When I screen potential tenants, I talk to their current landlord and their employer, ask for references, and order a credit report.crystal ballSome of the landlords in town are also regularly looking on the Internet, to see if the applicant blogs, has a Facebook page, and so on.

One friend told me that when he looked at the Facebook page of an applicant he was about to rent to, he saw that the person is really into partying and drinking. My friend didn’t rent to him.

Should I be looking at Facebook pages, too? –David R.

A: Your question calls for two answers: a legal one and a practical one. From a legal point of view, should you be checking applicants’ Internet postings? And, from a practical point of view, is it a good idea?

The steps you’ve been taking when screening tenants are the tried-and-true methods that careful landlords have been using for years to weed out risky applicants: those whose past actions indicate that they may not pay the rent or may not be considerate residents and neighbors. Although these methods are commonly used, they are not legally required.

It’s possible that a court might rule that these tools are the “industry standard,” which might make them quasi-mandatory, but it’s unlikely. Running a residential rental business (unlike, say, car manufacturing) is engaged in by too many people, in too many varied ways, to conclude that it’s an “industry” with common metrics and procedures.

So because you’re not legally required to do even what you’re already doing, it’s very unlikely that a judge would consider checking for Internet postings to be a legally necessary step in the screening process. Consider, for example, the issue of screening for those who are legally required to register as convicted sex offenders.

No state requires landlords to go online and look for their applicants on these lists, and California specifically forbids them from doing so. If you’re not required to consult the Internet for information as serious as registration for one of these crimes, it’s not reasonable to think that you’d have any duty to search for evidence of partying.

This conclusion has to be adjusted, however, for one situation: If you’re hiring a resident manager, you are screening not only a tenant, but a future employee, who will have access to tenants’ personal information and even their homes. You have a duty to make sure that you do not place a dangerous tenant manager in that position — in other words, your duty to screen has changed significantly.

Careful landlords do investigative background checks for tenant managers, with the legally required advance notice to the applicant. These investigations may turn up relevant information, including the applicant’s postings on the Internet.

So much for your legal duty. What about the practical value of hopping online and checking out your applicants? It’s hard to resist, and indeed you may learn information about your applicants’ lifestyle and habits that would reasonably lead any landlord to say, “No thanks on this one.”

As long as you’re looking at Web postings that are available to the public, your applicants will have no legitimate beef if you reject them based on what you see and read. But be careful — you can safely reject any applicant only when your reasons for doing so, no matter where you found the information, are legally justified, and not based on that applicant’s membership in a protected class, such as race and religion.

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For the rest of this article, please visit:  American Apartment Owners Association.  This link will take you directly to the article.

The Importance of Residential Tenant Screening & Commercial Tenant Screening

Some think that tenant screening services are unnecessary. They believe that it is a waste of money when you can verify the information yourself by calling references. However, the fact is that with regard to an investment, everyone must make smart choices. The only way that one can make a smart decision is based upon accurate information. Unfortunately, people will lie in order to get what they want. It is these people that are willing to do anything that are the most dangerous to your investment. Employment screening services ensure that you are adding the right person to your team, and confirm based on their history that your employees and business are not at risk by this person. Tenant screenings confirm that the renter is credible and is consistent on paying their bills.

Life Without Background Checks

When it comes to not using tenant screening services, there are countless stories of homeowners that rented to someone that then skipped out on their monthly rent payment. One example is from the state of Georgia. The person renting the home skipped out of town while still owing two months of rent. Calls, emails and texts all were not returned by that person. All the homeowner could do was file with the court, and look into the potential of garnishing wages. The only problem is that he did not know where the renter was any longer. Tenant checks could have pulled up any history of this type of action, and prevented the homeowner from losing out on money.

Not using employment screening services can be even more damaging as it involves the reputation of a business being on the line. There are several stories where businesses that work with children had unknowingly hired a convicted child molester. The reputation of the business can be permanently scarred by one bad decision. Employment background checks can prevent businesses from making poor hiring decisions.

Types Of Screenings

There are multiple facets to employment screenings. The first checks for a criminal background. This is important to the safety of other employees, yourself and to your business. If an employee has previously been convicted of embezzlement then it would not be a good decision to hire that person for an accounting position. The employment background checks also evaluates the work history of the candidate to verify that the information provided on the resume actually matches the recorded work history of the individual.

Tenant screening services check the criminal background of the renter as well. This is extremely important if the person has a history of drug abuse. If illegal drugs are made or distributed on the property, the government has the right to confiscate that property. In turn, you could lose your investment because of a renter. On the other had it also checks the credit history of the renter to ensure that they do not have a record of skipping out on their bills.

Protect Yourself From Risk

Regardless of your situation, you will want to employ either tenant or employment screening services to ensure that you are protected. The best way to protect yourself from risk is to make sure that the employment or tenant screening services you use meet the Fair Credit Reporting Act standards set by the federal government. Protecting yourself and your business is important, start by getting background checks today.

Article Source: http://EzineArticles.com/?expert=Chris_A._Harmen