Perusing the newspaper last night I came across an article heading stating that thirty percent of the United States population had been arrested at least once by the age of twenty-three. While I read no further to find the basis of this disheartening fact I nodded knowingly as I am only too aware of these statistics. Owning a real estate firm that provides property management services to apartment communities has exposed me to the realities of the world in which we live. Through the background reports on prospective residents I have been surprised, astonished and at time appalled by peoples rental, credit and criminal histories.
Therein lays a dilemma for anyone who is responsible for determining the acceptability of an applicant for residency. Access to this very personal information comes with great risk and responsibility. The information within a background report could not only harm the applicant’s financial wellbeing but also alter the public’s opinion of the applicant if the documents were to get into a dubious individuals possession. While rules and regulations are in place to govern who can gain access to background information, how those individuals use the information obtained and how that information is then secured it is not very well monitored.
For apartment community owners who self-manage, they take on the whole risk of securing these documents and for those who hire a third-party property management firm they share the risk. This shared risk makes it even more important
that the property owner to know how their property management firm is using and controlling the documents. As an agent for the property owner the management firm is performing services on behalf of the owner and the owner is directly responsible for any actions taken by the management firm. For this reason an owner should take precautions to protect themselves by hiring only experienced professional property management and then hiring a consulting firm to audit the
management firm on a yearly basis.