Living in a world where people are constantly update their Facebook status, tweet their inner most thoughts, and blog about their life it is all too tempting for a landlord to cyber stalk potential rental applicants or current tenants.
You can learn a lot about a person based on the photos they post, the 140 character tid-bits they tweet, and the info tab on their Facebook page. Seems like a great idea—learn all you need to know with one quick Google search, right?
Wrong you are.
Using this modern day microscope, of sorts, to determine whether or not you have found the ideal tenant opens you up to a wealth of dangerous, uncharted and no doubt, costly, legal territory.
1. There isn’t much case law to rely on should a tenant or potential applicant file a complaint with the local housing authority. If they can make a case for their application being denied based on what you might have learned from their Facebook like their religious affiliation, having a child or sexual preference you are in some FHA hot water—even if those things made no difference in your decision (and please note– they shouldn’t– ever).
2. Anything you learn from a tenant or applicant based on their social media proclamations like late night partying, job loss, financial trouble and past evictions an can all be discovered other ways. Call the listed references on their application, run a comprehensive criminal background check, ask for copies of previous water bills and pay stubs. Don’t resort to using Google as your frame of reference.
3. If you’re concerned tenants has been breaking the neighborhood quiet time rule you carefully placed in the lease, or you have suspicions that the damage made to the kitchen floor or front door might be because your tenant has pets they didn’t admit to or might have more people living in the home than the lease dictates, you’d be better of confronting the tenants after talking to neighbors or scheduling a walk-through of the unit rather than printing off tweets, photos, and posts from the internet. Your tenants will feel violated and you’ll end up looking like a crazy person!