Have you ever been at the grocery store looking for the perfect piece of fruit? You squeeze it, smell it, shake it and sometimes even listen to it. After a thorough inspection, you deem one worthy of consumption and throw it in your cart. Rarely, if ever, do you just pick up the first piece you see, and regardless of color or freshness, take it home and eat it. Why? Because you know what it will do to your body and just refuse to take that chance. When a potential resident walks through the door to your property, you need to perform a similar type of appraisal, because you know that “one bad apple” can spoil the whole bunch.

For you, it all comes down to one word: Safety. If it is not the top priority for you and your leasing staff, it should be. Every criminal, every terrorist, every person with a prior eviction will eventually be looking for a place to live. Finding a place for them to live is your business. On any day a recent sex offender, someone just out of prison for murder or the next person to do harm to our country could approach you. What you do before entering a person into any consumer report data base is essential. Let me repeat myself, “WHAT YOU DO BEFORE YOU ENTER A PERSON INTO ANY CONSUMER REPORT DATE BASE IS ESSENTIAL!” Notice I shouted that last sentence.

If you don’t know who your potential resident is, how can you expect your tenant screening company to know? If you do not make certain the persons renting your property are who they say they are on your application, you not only could be renting to a criminal, and you most likely are renting to someone who has something to hide.

No credit bureau can tell who filled out your application. No credit bureau can tell if the social security card presented to you is real. No credit bureau can tell if the photo on the driver’s license or Visa is actually your applicant. No credit bureau can see the identification (ID) and make certain that the information on the application that you enter into the credit system is the same as on the ID. Only you can do this.

Running a tenant screening is a multi-phase process, and if you fail to do your part, the rest of the information will be unreliable and inaccurate.

The September 11 attacks on our nation involved terrorists possessing expired visas; they had no right to be in this country. Some of them had social security numbers belonging to deceased people. These terrorists had an unbelievable impact on all of our lives, and it was the lack of proper screening and ID verification that allowed them to rent a place to live.

Every day, sex offenders find rental housing next door to vulnerable children. Every day, a person with a recent history of eviction finds a place to rent. And are terrorists in this country finding rentals, too? The potential cost of renting to these individuals can be devastating.

WHO ARE YOU RENTING TO? Have you seen the applicant’s social security card? Did you touch it and feel it? Do you know how to tell if it is real? Have you verified everything on his or her state-issued ID against what is on the application? Do you know what a visa should look like? These simple questions can help save money and, more importantly, possibly save lives.

If you are missing any these simple steps to qualify a tenant, you are jeopardizing the safety of your community, your residents, your staff and possibly the entire country. Just like you place the brightest yellow banana or the shiniest red apple in your cart, you should only place renters whose information you can verify into your properties.

Following these simple rules can make managing your property one word: peachy!



S. Sam Cooper, Investigative Screening and Consulting, is a licensed private investigator.