Trust But Verify
by Jared Lamp
“It’s not really a funny story,” says Rick Schneck, Sales Manager at SBMI Group. “It’s more like a painful lesson, actually.” Painful lesson indeed. Why? Because sometimes you just want to trust people. It’s human nature. In the property management game, you already know the importance of screening you tenants, but sometimes you have to probe a little deeper.
“I owned a duplex east of downtown Indianapolis,” Rick continues. “It was leased by my property manager to a couple with all the appropriate credentials: good credit, great rental history, good jobs and picture IDs. The only problem was their identities belonged to someone else. Within two weeks of moving in they removed nearly all the interior — including all the appliances, cabinetry, pedestal sinks, toilets (they were Kohlers), plumbing hardware, solid-oak wood flooring, lighting, wood doors, copper wiring and plumbing and the custom wrought-iron staircase railing. It was the railing that caught the eyes of the neighbors and triggered the ultimate discovery of the nefarious activity.”
To make matters worse, Rick’s less-than-stellar property manager didn’t respond in a timely manner, which helped the thieves elude police. “Homeowners insurance covered most of the loss,” Rick says, a black-belt in calm despite the somewhat embarrassing recollection. “But it didn’t cover the vacancy.”
Like all stories, there is a moral: trust but verify. That may sound harsh and pessimistic, but it is almost vital to screen, probe, and then probe some more to make sure you don’t get burned. Although you may not run across identity thieves like in Rick’s story, predators are out there, and they have gone to extremes to conceal their sketchy intentions. So, are you to take fingerprints and DNA samples before handing over the keys? Not quite, but here are several things you can do: along with running a basic credit, criminal, and eviction check, enter the prospective tenant’s name into Megan’s Law Sex Offender Database and an updated court index to see if anything pops up that may set off any red flags. California’s Vexatious Litigant database is another ideal source. This is a database primarily used to identify sue-happy individuals whose character may fall more on the “shady” side and may potentially hatch a scheme targeting your property.
When a human being is involved, there is no guarantee in anything, but these safeguards may prevent something along the lines of Rick’s identity-thieving dismantlers happening to you.
Have you had less than stellar tenants? What was your experience? Any tips or recommendations are greatly appreciated in this community.