Is Facebook the Next Tenant Screening Tool?

tenantriskverification May 28, 2012 0

Last summer’s party anthem, “Last Friday Night (TGIF)” may have had you rocking out in your car and empathizing with the line, “pictures of last night ended up on line, I’m screwed.”  But have you really contemplated how the photos of your night of debauchery might hurt you in the future? There has been a lot of fodder about how what you post online might come back to haunt you. Recent reports indicate that many employers are now requiring applicants to surrender their social media passwords as part of the hiring process. But future employers may not be the only one searching Facebook for information on you; your future landlord may be looking too.

We have discussed the necessity of thoroughly screening your tenants in our article “Becoming Your Own Property Manager”, but are using social media sites to screen your tenant a good idea?

You have two applicants that are interested in renting your home. Both applicants have filled out an application, have agreed to a credit/background check and have submitted references. Applicant A has good credit, no criminal background and their references check out, but you dig a little deeper and you see pictures on their Facebook page that indicate they enjoy hosting large parties for the progressive church of which they are a member. Applicant B has fair credit, slight mark on their criminal background, their references are good and your review of their Facebook page reveals that they like to spend time biking with their family and watching movies on the weekends.

Out of concern for the care of your property, you decide to take a slight risk and rent to Applicant B. Have you done anything illegal?

Sec. 800. [42 U.S.C. 3601 note] “Fair Housing Act” states that:

In the Sale and Rental of Housing: No one may take any of the following actions based on race, color, national origin, religion, sex, familial status or handicap:

  • Refuse to rent or sell housing
  • Refuse to negotiate for housing
  • Make housing unavailable
  • Deny a dwelling
  • Set different terms, conditions or privileges for sale or rental of a dwelling
  • Provide different housing services or facilities
  • Falsely deny that housing is available for inspection, sale, or rental
  • For profit, persuade owners to sell or rent (blockbusting) or
  • Deny anyone access to or membership in a facility or service (such as a multiple listing service) related to the sale or rental of housing.

Applicant A may never know why they are not your next tenant, but it is important to protect yourself from potential discrimination complaints by keeping the guidelines for renting your properties consistent and straightforward. Use reputable screening tools such as SmartMove and only screen tenants using criteria that the law permits, such as income, credit, employment, references, etc. Be prepared to present a written document that will outline that the tenant was refused occupancy based on valid factors.

While the Fair Housing Act addresses Federal laws, it is imperative that you consult the laws and statutes of the state, county, and city where your home is located.

Bottom line, protect yourself from discrimination claims by avoiding the temptation to look further into a prospective tenants background by snooping on the internet and stick to the tried and true methods. If you do your due diligence screening a tenant through scrupulous means, you will know enough to make an informed decision and you will not have to rely on spying.

Source : militarybyowner

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