The use of tenant screening, more commonly referred to as “background checks,” is growing in popularity in multi-family apartment leasing. These days just about every landlord and property manager utilize some sort of credit and rental history screening process for the financially-responsible party, but now the integration of background checks for residents is becoming just as commonplace. In the past 24 months, Preferred Corporate Housing has seen a significant increase in the communities which now require specific guest information to be provided so that criminal background checks can be performed on each occupant. While each property management company has it’s own criteria they use to evaluate whether or not they will accept or reject an applicant, PCH is finding that communities are following the guidelines and recommendations from their local civil authorities. With many states and municipalities having passed legislation requiring the tracking of criminal offenders and sexual predators, apartment communities may be required by local law to perform these tenant screenings.
“PCH provided our fully furnished apartments in 49 out of the 50 U.S. states in 2014, and we’ve seen an uptick in background checks/tenant screening processes in every state we serviced,” said Anna Doran, Senior National Account Executive for Preferred Corporate Housing. “This is a welcome trend from our perspective because, even though it may cause a bit more paperwork on the front-end, adding criminal screenings is a way to improve safety across the board for our corporate clients,” said Doran.
Another reason multi-families are adding these types of criminal screenings to their leasing process is in effort to eliminate “negligent leasing.” This is a widely used term in the multi-family rental industry used to describe a rental situation go awry due to lack of due diligence and pre-screening on the part of the community management. Negligent leasing is a real concern today as properties can potentially avoid theft, violence and damages by simply running a criminal history check on guests before accepting them to their property. Fair Housing laws require that if any screening of this nature is performed on one potential resident, it must be applied to all potential residents across the board.
“We prefer to place our corporate clients at communities that require these type of criminal screenings for guests because it adds a bit more peace-of-mind about the neighborhood,” said Megan Margetusakis, Director of Operations for PCH. “Our clients have an expectation of safety when they stay with us, and while we can’t guarantee that crime won’t happen, we can do our due diligence to reduce the risk by placing them in communities with resident screening requirements.”
Although resident screening services can potentially weed out unwanted, potentially dangerous neighbors, many corporate clients have balked at the requirements to provide the personal information needed to complete these screenings for their corporate travelers. This hesitancy is not due to fear that their employees will not pass the screenings, but rather protection of their employees’ personally identifiable information. Drivers License numbers, date of birth, and even social security numbers are often required for these screenings. International travelers may even be asked to provide copies of their passports.
“The most important thing for corporate travel and mobility managers to understand when it comes to resident screening requirements is that we must abide by the community requirements when placing your employees in our furnished apartments,” said Margetusakis. “Because of Fair Housing and other local laws, we do not have the ability waive these requirements on a case by case basis for any guest or employee. What we can offer are secure ways to provide the required personal information that doesn’t violate the company’s PII policy and/or place the employee at risk for PII exposure.” said Margetusakis.
Tenant screening, background checks, criminal history review…they are all here to stay, and it is highly-likely that their inclusion in rental approval processes will continue to gain popularity throughout the country. Corporate Travel and Mobility Managers should be prepared to counsel their employees on this requirement and talk through best-practices and safe methods for providing the necessary personal information for these screenings.