It might be tempting for a landlord to do that quick Google search or social media check to screen tenants. However did you know you could violate the Fair Housing Act doing that?
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It may be easy to ‘cyber-stalk’ potential tenants.
Even with great investigative screening and firm rental standards, a quick Google search can feel rewarding. Imagine you find out a tenant had lied about his employment status or previous address. That is important information right?
Well yes and no!
Screen tenants the right way and avoid social media and Google
There is a problem with screening potential tenants via Google and other social media platforms. You soon find yourself with a wealth of unimportant information too. This information could be potentially harmful to fair housing regulations and information likely to put your rental standards in danger.
The key to using social media to examine your tenants is to determine who, what, when where and why a piece of information is essential to know. And, how this knowledge does or doesn’t put you in danger of violating fair housing and put you in jeopardy of violating a protected class.
Here are 4 steps to screen tenants the right way
Step 1: Use a tenant screening company do to a “legit” background search BEFORE you start friending, following, tweeting and instagram-ing with your applicant.
Step 2: Do not do the social media background search yourself. Hire an outside company who will deliver a fact check in response to the results of the background check you had your preferred screening company do.
Step Three: If you can’t afford yet another screening company without having to jack up the application fee train a staff member to do the check. Tell them exactly what information they are looking to verify. Give them a copy of your rental standards, the background check, and discuss with them the fickle nature of fair housing.
Step Four: Review the information after it has been reported to you. Remember… you must never be the one to do the research. It is imperative from a legal standpoint that you make the decision based on pertinent facts only. Any other unnecessary info can’t cross your desk. You will be in a sticky situation when and if a tenant claims you violated fair housing by doing a social media search.
As technology grows it’ll eventually be impossible not to want to use the internet to do a little digging. But the jury is still out—literally—on how this effects fair housing and other HUD regulations placed on landlords.
Check out these other articles:
- Think Twice Before Friend-ing Your Tenant
- Landlords Connect: Discover the Power of Social Networking
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