When it comes to screening tenants, it is important to take your time to research potential tenants thoroughly. Using criminal background checks, credit reports, and eviction reports, you can put together a fairly robust profile of an applicant. However, not everyone stops there. Some landlords are turning to social media to garner more information about an interested applicant.
If you are considering using social media as part of your tenant screening process, check out these guidelines and tips. Although social media can be helpful, you need to ensure you are using it the best way.
Don’t Neglect A Proper Screening Process
Although social media may provide you with some useful information, you should never substitute an actual tenant screening process with a social media perusal. You should still run a background check, credit report, and potentially even an eviction history to ensure you gain actual facts about the applicant. Remember, social media is not always an accurate representation of people. Someone could put a great face forward on Facebook, but their credit report might tell you more about how they actually handle their money.
Stick To The Same Criteria
If you are going to use social media as part of your tenant screening process, create guidelines for yourself that you stick to for every single applicant. For example, if you are going to research the Facebook page of one applicant, research the Facebook page for every applicant. Make sure you visit the same social media sites for every applicant and that you stick to the same criteria in screening, no matter who they are.
Determine What You are Looking For & Document Everything
If you are going to use social media as a means for employment verification, write that down as one of your guidelines and apply it to every person you screen. If you plan on using Facebook to see if they are being truthful about whether or not they own dogs, do so for every applicant.
Make sure you document everything you find. The biggest risk you face in using social media in your tenant screening process is a breech in Fair Housing Laws. To protect yourself from a discrimination lawsuit, be sure you are abiding by these regulations and sticking to the same routine.
Decide If You Can Handle It
Using social media to screen tenants will not work out well for everyone. Keep in mind that not only will you find what you are looking for (e.g. John Smith really does work for the company he claims he does), you may also find information you didn’t want to know. You might find out that John Smith also has the opposite religious views of you. You will not be able to unlearn information, but you absolutely cannot use information that will lead to discrimination against an applicant. For example, if you do find out a qualified applicant has opposing religious views, you will be violating the Fair Housing Laws if you choose not to rent to him because of this knowledge.
Ask yourself if you can remain professional and only use social media for valid reasons. If you haven’t taken the time to brush up on the Fair Housing Act, do so before you head over to social media. Keep in mind that your local city and state might have additional regulations and protected classes as well.
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