Promoting safety in your rental will help protect both your investment and your reputation. If your tenants are committing crimes in your rental, it could potentially make you liable, depending on the type of crime. While it can be difficult to make that judgement call before really getting to know them, there are a few ways to protect yourself against criminal activity and the legal situations that that can bring about.
Screen Every Incoming Tenant – A thorough tenant screening process is one of the best defences that you can put into place for your rental business. The tenant(s) that you accept into your property will have full access to it without a great deal of supervision, so it is imperative that you know who these people are to the best of your ability. A credit, criminal, and eviction report may not provide 100% certainty, but it will give you insight into how they approach debts owed and if they have had any prior run-ins with the legal system.
Know the Limitations of a Background Check – Everything in this world has a limitation, but the limitations of a criminal background check can be very frustrating to a landlord trying to protect their investment from people that might cause trouble if accepted as a tenant. There is no central database for these records, which makes collecting them difficult in some cases. Records may not make it into a search or they may take a bit longer for the county to provide them, but part of protecting your property will come with understanding how to work around these limitations.
Reasons Why a Record May Not Show – There are valid reasons why a record may not show up in a traditional background search. Part of protecting yourself against surprises down the road will come through understanding the limitations and finding ways to work around them. This article provides a few additional reasons to the above article.
Accepting a Tenant With a Record – While you should always have policies in place as to what you will and will not accept in terms of credit, criminal, and eviction history, there are certain considerations you should make before you simply throw an applicant with a criminal background out.
HUD Guidelines for Criminal Records – The US Department of Housing and Urban Development issued a set of guidelines within the last year that may affect how you approach applicants with a criminal record. While those with a criminal record are not considered a protected class, per se, HUD’s reasoning behind the new changes is that denying someone based entirely on their criminal record may lead to discrimination against race or color.
Illegal Activity Warning Signs – As previously noted, criminal background checks may be missing information, so you’ll want to make sure to keep an eye on your rental property. You may have accepted the best tenants you’ll ever have, but if you start seeing warning signs of illegal activity, you’ll want to at least take a closer look.
Spotting Drug Dealing/ Manufacturing Signs – Drug dealing and manufacturing can be a very dangerous brand of criminal activity that you will want to watch out for. If your rental gains a reputation for drug trafficking, it may be difficult to rent it again once you get the delinquent tenant out.
Tenant Mediation – As a landlord you may often have a tenant come to you with a complaint about another. If it’s something small, or a complaint about non-compliance with the lease, you should have a set of policies that direct how to handle the situation. If the complaint is criminal in nature, you’ll need to know how to handle it with the utmost care.
Evicting Problem Tenants – One reason that you may choose to go through the eviction process is to handle a tenant that has broken the lease that you signed with them. This could come in the form of non-payment of rent or it could be that you’ve discovered illegal activity in your rental. If you decide to pursue and eviction, be careful that you take all of the necessary legal steps.
Promoting Safety in the Rental – Part of protecting your rental will be to promote safety with your tenants. Criminal activity inside the apartment or house is not the only concern. You’ll want to make sure that law-abiding tenants living within your rental feel safe in their home as well.