A property manager and landlord’s responsibility is threefold: protect the tenant, protect the employee, and protect the property.
Effective and comprehensive background screening of both tenants and employees is one of the most impactful steps you can take.
As a property manager, a great deal of focus surrounds tenancy – finding the right tenant who will take good care of your property, stay the full term of the lease (and possibly renew) and will not disrupt other tenants and neighbors. However, just as important as tenant background screening is the employee background screen.
In January 2015, police in North Austin began a murder investigation allegedly connected to a landscaper hired by the property manager. This chilling report is a sobering reminder of the importance of running a thorough background screen on all individuals working in and around your rental property. In this particular case, the property manager planned to begin running background screens in the near future. Could this, if started sooner, have saved a life?
Employment Background Screen Policies
An employer must obtain consent from an applicant, employee or tenant prior to running a background screen, accomplished through a signed consent form. What is then included in a background check must be determined. For example, when you consider if a credit report is appropriate and permissible, will the employee have access to funds and assets? Or, should this be omitted from inclusion with the criminal background, reference check and employment verifications? How will you handle office versus managers versus maintenance staff?
Protect yourself and your organization through a clearly written policy defining what will be included in a background screen, how the results will be used in employment decisions and how you will comply with regulations and laws (industry, local, state and FCRA). When creating your policy, include how you will manage background screening independent contractors or maintenance crews hired from external companies.
Screening Current Employees
If you are implementing a new background screening policy and intend to screen current employees, you can avoid some common pitfalls by clear communication regarding why you are making this change, how the information will be used and what your employees can expect. Have a conversation with one of our knowledgeable Account Executives, who can walk you through Choice ReScreen.
Another relevant policy is reoccurring background screens and drug and alcohol testing. Fortunately, nearly everyone is familiar with drug screening policies and their use throughout the term of employment. Use your employee’s understanding to draw parallels with your new policy to screen current employees with regular, ongoing background screening.
The Criminal Background Report
We’ve written about the various services included in criminal background screens and what to do if your client has a criminal past. Read these important articles and brush up on current legislation. Make sure you know what information you will get from the services you are running.
A background screen will not create a utopia, free of any violence and crime; however, it could reduce the chances of an occurrence.
If you have any questions about services, contact us. We want to keep you, your staff and your tenants safe just as much as you do – the more informed you are the more successful you will be with this serious responsibility.
Consent, Adverse Action, Compliance and Class Action
Don’t let your background screening policy work against you. The plaintiff’s bar is heavily focused on misuse and non-use of the consent form and adverse action. If nothing else, remember this and discuss these important parts of background screening with your attorney:
- Make sure your attorney reviews and signs off on your consent forms, adverse action and policies surrounding each.
- Never include a release of liability in the consent form and always separate this form from other application documents.
- Always provide your applicant with a copy of the background report if asked – the law is very clear on this.
- Always use both a Pre- and Post-Adverse Action Letter along with all necessary documents; wait an appropriate amount of time before taking action and administering the Post-Adverse Action Letter; and follow your policy without exception whenever taking adverse action based in part or entirely on the results of the background screen.
- Have a clearly established policy if the applicant disputes information on a background report.
In addition, make sure you know if your internal activities could require compliance with the FCRA or could inadvertently violate Title VII, even if you’re not ordering a background screen through Choice Screening. A current risk involves viewing your applicant’s Social Media profiles.
Benefit Beyond Safety?
As a long-time renter myself, I am encouraged by the security and reassurance when a property’s employees have been screened by a professional background screening company. This could be a deciding factor for a tenant in this extremely competitive rental market… a tenant who is expecting a comprehensive background screen to be run on them as well.
Protecting Your Property, Staff and Tenants
Property managers and landlords have a tremendous responsibility to keep their tenants safe in the most vulnerable place for any of us – the home. Leverage the knowledge and experience of a professional background screening agency like Choice Screening, create a policy for comprehensive background screens for your employees and tenants in conjunction with your attorney, and stay up to date on regulatory and legislative changes so you can concentrate on your never-ending list of responsibilities.
Choice Screening can play an integral role in your background screening policy – helping you create packages that effectively manage both the employees and tenants. Contact Us today and Follow Us for a wealth of industry information.
On a final note, please remember Choice Screening is not an attorney nor should any article of ours be taken as legal advice. Always see legal advice from someone qualified to provide it.