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When it comes to bringing in new tenants, a background check has become almost mandatory for landlords. You want tenants you don’t feel you have to be concerned about on many levels. However, you should also take care in how far you delve into the lives of prospective tenants so as not to discriminate or violate privacy rights and laws.

Having a family background check done can reveal issues that may lead to problems in the future. Someone in a family with a severe criminal background, medical issues or other problems such as violent tendencies and drug- or alcohol-related issues can lead to disruptions in the lives of others, police calls, or even damage to property. That is possible and a reality a landlord must take into consideration.

Of course, ethnic or religious differences in a family background can’t play a role in whether a tenant is placed. Regardless of a person’s race, religious background or the race of anyone in a family, a landlord can’t block residency. Not only are there Federal laws about this, but state and local laws as well. There are lines you cannot cross.

Privacy laws have become a very sensitive topic as of late. Granted, there is information you can know about a tenant’s family that may affect your decision-making process, but walking that fine line between what is legal and what isn’t varies from state to state. Also, decisions are subject to change due to whatever relevant changes there are and will be in the laws.

Unfortunately, you could be violating the law and not even realize it. By handling background checks yourself or by using an in-house background check system, it may lead you into legal hot water. Not accepting a tenant based on incorrect or “illegal” family background check information may be seen as discriminatory, a violation of privacy, or both. This means that the information you’re basing your decision on must be legal and doesn’t violate any rights of prospective tenants. Still, it is wiser to get a background check company to do the checking for you rather than risk getting yourself into legal trouble.

When it comes to the criminal or personal history of family members of prospective tenants, the situation gets more confusing. That is why it is important to work with a reputable company that does professional background checks to enable you to know the information you have is both accurate and legal, keeping you from making decisions that could lead to some type of legal backlash.

Between discrimination laws and privacy laws, having “safe” information protects not only the prospective tenant and their families, but most importantly, it protects you.