Tenant Background Checks: Should Landlords Include Social Media as Basis?
The prevalent use of social networking sites such as Facebook and Twitter have landlords thinking about the extent of their tenant background checks. With a good deal of information being publicly accessible, some homeowners could not resist the temptation to casually go over a Facebook profile or pry further to get details.
Social media screening remains to be debatable, and this is because of the pros and cons that go with this double edged sword. After all, there is such a thing as staying within the limit for good reasons or dangerously toying with legal risks in terms of managing property management duties.
Seeing potential tenants in their unguarded behavior, thus signaling potential prompts for problems.
Verifying information that could otherwise be stated on the application.
Conducting lifestyle checks to see if such behavior will be tolerable or too much for the property (and the landlord) to take.
Seeing a not so likable timeline of rental history that may be covered up by the applicant during your face to face interview.
Forming a biased and discriminating opinion based on race, religion or ethnicity – which is against the Fair Housing Act.
Prying a little too much and getting irrelevant information that should not be used as a basis for your decision in the first place.
Damaging landlord-tenant relationship even before it starts – due to violation of the right to privacy.
Mistaking the “social media persona” as something that is entirely reflective of the person’s over-all behavior.
Should landlords insist on going ahead with this aspect of the screening, the best way to deal with it is to hire a third party screener. This way, the information that reaches the landlord is only the one that is relevant to the decision making process and is still within the scope of the legalities.