Beware landlords unwilling to do background checks on tenants! Wolves in tenants clothing are desperately trying to infiltrate your properties to take advantage of you and your renters. Who landlords allow into their residential or commercial properties can have a profound affect on the kind of services they will ultimately provide, the overall satisfaction tenants will experience, and finally, their return on investment.
Unfortunately, not everyone has your best interest at heart when they are conducting business with you. In fact, some may be out to cause harm to you or others you associate with. Thankfully, there are methods to thwart the advances of those your business could do without. One of these methods is issuing background checks for all of your potential tenants for residential or commercial properties.
Why Background Checks for Tenants?
Of course when you are initially interviewing a potential tenant, you are going to ask all of the run of the mill questions referring to a possible criminal past, if they are legal citizens of the United States, and if they currently have the means to pay their bills. Even though you have personally covered those bases, the fact about dishonest people is that they lie. To make sure you are getting the full picture of a potential tenant, you need an independent source to verify all of the information they provided to you.
When Red Flags Should Be Hoisted
Your first red flag should appear if there are discrepancies in the tenants statements to you and what the background check shows to be true. Small minor details like a misspelling of an old address etc, should be forgiven. Sometimes one on one questioning can be nerve wracking, so it is understandable that a small mistake might have happened.
However, glaring discrepancies such as criminal charges or open investigations that the tenant did not report should put you on full alert. Other red flags, reported or not, should include violent offenses, especially domestic violence, fraud, past drug activity, especially distribution, repeated offenses for illegal solicitation, and sex offenders.
Keeping Tenants and Your Property Safe
It is no mystery why landlords would want to keep violent offenders out of their properties. Violent offenders present an unacceptable risk to existing tenants who may occupy their properties. The same can be said about sex offenders. It is not just children at risk from sex offenders. Adult women and even men can be victims of sex crimes, so it should be a top priority of landlords to ensure those types of threats do not make it within their properties for the safety and security of everyone.
Yet another safety concern would be those in the business of distributing illegal drugs. Due to the transfer of large amounts of physical money, drug operations usually bring violence and even more alarming, gun violence. Some forms of drug manufacturing can be physically dangerous to the health of tenants and the physical structure of properties. With so many ways the health and safety of tenants can be compromised, running a background check should be standard practice.
Landlords, Know Your Rights & Responsibilities
As I advocate for the performance of backgrounds be standard practice, I also must caution landlords to do their research and know what their rights and responsibilities are for issuing background checks. In some states, the landlord is required to foot the bill for a background or credit check for a potential tenant, and in others, landlords have the discretion to impose this fee onto their potential tenants. It also might be your responsibility as a landlord to ensure those individuals who have specific restrictions when it comes to living around children or other vulnerable people are abiding by the law. If you failed to conduct a background check, and then a sex offender ends up living next door to children, consequences might fall heavily upon your doorstep.
Background Checks for Tenants Keep Yourself Safe
You just finished what seemed to be a picture perfect session with a potential tenant, but due to your protocol, you run a background check. Not only is your seemingly perfect candidate not perfect, they are currently wanted for a string of violent crimes. This may seem like the setup for a crime drama, but the fact remains this scenario can play itself out in real life, and you need to be prepared. Once you find out a potential tenant is not who they say they are, and you have reasonable cause to fear for your safety, you need to immediately contact the police.
Second, you need to end communications with this person. Avoid phone calls from their number and inform your staff to be on the look out for this individual and not to engage them. Thankfully, every case will not be this extreme, but nobody with good intentions will attempt to hide who they are. People who may have a criminal past, but no longer wish to live that way, will most likely be upfront about their past. Time past and the nature of the crime will of course determine how you proceed, and there is no shame in putting the safety and security of your tenants first, no matter how insignificant the risk may seem.
Their Background is Your Bottom Line
Sometimes background checks for tenants can be costly and time consuming, but they are certainly worth your time and money. Compromising your tenants and property by bypassing tenant screening is not only a safety concern, but it can greatly affect your return on investment if things do not go as planned. While tenants are residing on your property, their safety is your responsibility, and you best believe your most vulnerable tenants are taking notice to how you operate your business, so it is always best to make sure the right people are on the right side of your fences.