The Necessity of Tenant Screening

  • 8/6/2015
  • Mandy Haynes
The Necessity of Tenant Screening image
Currently, much of the buzz surrounding background checks pertains not only to pre-employment screening, but to tenant screening as well. News stories detailing horror stories of bad tenants are becoming more common these days, confirming the necessity of tenant screenings.

For example, in November of last year, Beverly Ginsburg decided to rent out her Pasadena home to a mother and daughter “who needed help getting back on their feet.” Although Ginsburg had the tenants sign a lease, she did not have them fill out a rental application and did not do a background check on them. Ginsburg trusted the tenants, thinking the pair was “a nice Jewish woman with a daughter and a cute dog.” However, she soon learned that the tenants were not as they seemed. She says the tenants were “con artists” and “knew exactly what they wanted” when they moved into her house. Ginsburg says the tenants stole personal items from her including a computer, cell phone and her keys and that the tenants displayed aggressive behavior towards her. She says the tenants would clog the toilet, causing the bathroom to flood. They would then call the police and accuse Ginsburg of “not supplying water to them.”

In the 26 short days that the tenants occupied Ginsburg's home, the police were called to her home a total of 18 times. She later hired a private investigator to help her evict the tenants, but luckily, the tenants eventually moved out on their own. Ginsburg later learned that the tenants had done the same thing to another woman several years earlier.

Last month, the Huffington Post published another horror story of a bad tenant. The article tells the story of an experienced and successful property manager, whom the article refers to as “Janet” to protect her identity, who was scammed by a tenant several years back. Under pressure to rent out a condo, Janet found “an eager and polite government contractor” who was interested. She failed to run a full background check and credit report, choosing instead to do an “express screening.” She accepted the credit report the applicant gave her which he obtained from a free credit report website and called his employer, who confirmed his employment with them. She had the applicant sign the lease, and after collecting checks for first month’s rent and the security deposit, gave the tenant the keys. The tenant moved in a few days before his lease started, having already been given the keys.

The checks soon bounced and as a result, the tenant wrote two more checks from a different bank account, which also bounced. Janet met with a bank manager and “discovered that the tenant had four open checking accounts at that bank, each with a balance less than ten cents.” Janet tried to remove the tenant and the police were called. However, the police would not act, telling her that she needed to take her case to eviction court. Two months later, Janet was prepared to face the tenant in court. However, minutes before the court appointment, the tenant sent Janet a text stating, “I’ve moved out, you’ll never find me.” Janet won the eviction judgement, but discovered the tenant had flooded the condo, ruining the hardwood floors. She lost her client and was left with a damaged reputation. Janet now runs more thorough background checks and credit reports using online services.

These two stories may serve as cautionary tales for landlords, property managers, real estate agents and other individuals who interact with tenants. These two situations could have been avoided had the property managers run a more thorough and extensive background check on the tenant(s). The full articles can be found here: