The applicants for #3 “looked” good. They were brother-and-sister. They both had good jobs, and their incomes suggested that they could afford the rent. They both had fairly good credit scores (above 650). In the past, we would have rented to them.
That was then, this is now.
Now we can also run Criminal Background Checks. We now run such checks on ALL APPLICANTS. It is inexpensive, and it is essential. This pair proved the point, dramatically. “She” had no criminal history. “He” did, and as amazing as this may sound, he had (12 years ago) been charged with MURDER, AND WAS ULTIMATELY CONVICTED OF VOLUNTARY MANSLAUGHTER. Yes, that really got our attention.
But … as the rental agents said … “He looked like such a nice guy”.
Here is the reality: suppose you could run a CRIMINAL HISTORY CHECK, but did not, because the applicant “looked good”. Suppose, for example, you could run a CRIMINAL HISTORY CHECK but did not, because you didn’t want to spend the money. Now suppose, for example, that you rent to a violent criminal, you allow him (or her) to move into your property next to truly “nice” people.
And finally, suppose that he (or she) harms one of your other tenants, either physically or financially (by stealing from them, etc.).
We adjusted our standards to deal with this very valuable information. In the situation mentioned above, it was simple: there was no way we would ever rent to him. But there are lesser crimes, such as the kid who got “busted” for smoking marijuana back in college 15 years ago. Where we are now is that we simply will not rent to anyone who has been convicted of a crime involving either physical or financial harm to a person or property. And, we will not rent to anyone with two or more misdemeanors (such as drunk driving), as this is a person who is both a law-breaker, and someone with little regard for the safety of others. We want to rent to people who play by the rules.
If you decide that such Criminal Background Checks are not worth the time, effort, or expense, I would recommend that you consult with your insurance agent. You might want to be sure that you would be covered if you inadvertently rented to someone with a criminal background, and such person committed some form of harm to one of your other tenants.
Some people have commented that somehow it’s “not right” to discriminate against someone who has “served his or her time”.
In my quest to look out for all of my tenants, I must disagree. The criminal record is just half of the equation. We specifically ask all of our applicants (on the application form) if they have a Criminal Record. In every instance so far, where there was such a record, the applicant LIED, and said that they DID NOT have a Criminal Record. To avoid arguing over “why” we turned them down, we have simply told them that they were denied because THEY LIED TO US.
This new diligence in our tenant research seems well worth the time, the effort, and the small expense. We would not do it any other way.
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This article is the 181st in a series based on the lessons we have learned the hard way. The contents of these articles are merely opinions of the writer. They are not intended as specific legal advice and should not be relied upon for that purpose. Our practice is in constant refinement as we adjust the way we operate to an ever- changing market. I appreciate your questions, comments, suggestions, and solutions. Contact C. Finley Beven, CPM, CCAM, JD. ___
99 S. Lake Avenue, Pasadena. (626) 243-4145. Fin.Beven@BevenandBrock.com