Monday, June 21, 2010
What responsibilities do owners have to screen their tenants?
Last week I blogged about an association’s need to know if the purchasers and tenants coming in to the community have a troublesome history elsewhere. What about the association member’s responsibility to similarly give some thought to the people moving in to their private properties?
Far too often, owners in communities where the boards screen potential renters rely entirely on that screening procedure an do not perform their own background checks on the people they are allowing in to their homes. Other times, owners have a “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy which is odd considering that these owners, in most instances, are allowing strangers to move into their property.
For some owners, renting out the property means the difference between keeping the unit or home or losing it to foreclosure. It is important to remember, however, that certain tenants can wind up costing the owner/landlord a lot of money should that tenant do damage to the common areas or create a nuisance. After all, the owner is still the one that is on the hook for any damage his or her tenant inflicts on the community as well as for attorney’s fees and costs should the association sue for violations.
I’ve often wondered if some leases would still be executed if owners delved a little deeper into the backgrounds of their tenants. The recent, brutal killing of a Nova Southeastern University professor allegedly at the hands of his renter is a chilling cautionary tale. In that case, the professor was attempting to evict his tenant. A check of the tenant’s name in the Broward County court system would have revealed that the tenant had been evicted six times before by other landlords: once in 1995 and five other times since 2002, all related to nonpayment of rent.
While the vast majority of tenants prove to be wonderful additions to a community, potential landlords would still be well advised to check the names of potential renters through the clerk of the courts online system in their county. If past evictions are revealed, the landlord should seek further information about the nature of the eviction: nonpayment, conduct or both. There is no doubt that getting a tenant willing to rent your property these days is a welcome relief for many; however, that does not warrant throwing caution and common sense out the window during the process.