One of the more common trends these days when doing a background check in many situations is to check the social media account of those who may become your tenants. People have questioned if doing this as a background check is an invasion of privacy, and on the surface, it could appear that way. But when it’s your property at stake, it is a rather logical idea.
Seldom is a Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, or even MySpace account kept to a professional level and, as a result, you’re more likely to see people as they really behave in their personal lives and, hopefully, get a glimpse of how they have treated past properties.
Take employment screening for a minute. Certain companies check into potential employees’ credit reports to use these as gauge of how responsible or irresponsible they can be. Just look at a person’s social media accounts. Say, the first picture you see is him at a bar or club, holding a drink. Safe enough. But if he also looks very inebriated and out of control, it sends the impression that the potential employee might not have the best judgment and that could cost him his job in the future or, worse, cause problems to the company. For these reasons, it seems only right to check into employees’ accounts.
The same holds true for landlords like you. You can background check a tenant’s social media presence if, for instance, your reason involves a report of damage on your property. If there’s a chance that the tenant caused said damage, especially as he is leaving the property, you could have a claim against him and the right to withhold his security deposit.
There is a fine line between an invasion of privacy and protecting your investment. As a landlord, you retain the right to run background checks on anyone who will be residing on your property. This is a completely legal and understandable step in trying to protect your investment. Nevertheless, take extra careful or you could find yourself going too far in the process.
Check on a person to make sure he hasn’t had any wild and uncontrollable parties on your property, then once the initial check is complete, that should be the end of the process. Do not cross the line between making sure your new tenant isn’t destructive and stalking the person. A check of social media at the beginning and end of a contract should be sufficient. Leave no need to pry into his activities unless there’s reason to believe that the tenant may be engaging in something illegal at the location. In that case, you not only have the right but the responsibility to check into their Twitter feed or Facebook timeline in order to find any reason to contact the proper authorities.
Background checks are sometimes a bit of a necessary evil. In these days, you never truly know who it is you’re dealing with anymore. It’s been said that the person who appears first is actually just the representative of the person who you will be actually be dealing with, which makes getting as much information as possible about his real life quite necessary.
Whether it’s dating, hiring a new employee, or renting out a property to a new tenant, it’s best practice to take the first impression with a grain of salt until you can get a more accurate view of the person behind the facade. In this age, social media is where you’re going to get the most authentic perspective. The truth is really out there.