One of the most difficult problems a property manager can face is the incidence of crime on the properties they manage. While there is no full proof system for eliminating all crime, proper screening procedures can go a long way to ensuring that those with a criminal or sex offender background are not inadvertently approved during the application process. While most property managers and staff are diligent in processing credit and employment checks, not all properties have jumped on board with the idea of running a criminal background check on potential tenants.
According to a Boston research firm, only 44 percent of landlords conduct sex offender checks, and only 51 percent conduct criminal background checks on applicants.
Along with credit checks, criminal background and sex offender checks should be part of the application process – for many reasons. A lack of proper background checks, including a sex offender check and criminal background check not only endangers current tenants, but the entire community as well. Part of the responsibility of a property manager is to ensure that all of the properties managed are as safe and secure as they can possibly be. If you’re ready to start running criminal and sex offender background checks on applicants, here are a few pointers:
- Create guidelines for running these background checks, making them a routine process along with the standard credit and employment checks currently processed for all applicants. Be sure to update any documentation such as procedures and policies handbooks to reflect the changes. Managers must also make sure that all employees are trained properly, and adequately informed that criminal background checks and sex offender checks are mandatory for all applicants with no exceptions.
- Under no circumstances should these background checks be run at the employee or managers discretion or be based on appearances or other criteria. Not only does this violate Fair Housing regulations, opening the property up to potential litigation, you may inadvertently drive away a potentially terrific tenant in favor of one with an extensive criminal history.
- Make it clear in your ads and any other marketing materials that all applicants will be subject to a criminal/sex offender background check. This will likely discourage a large percentage of those with a criminal history from applying.
While you’ll never be able to control all criminal activity, implementing criminal and sex offender background checks will help to ensure the safety of your apartment community and the surrounding community as a whole.