"As a property owner can I contact the tenant myself?"
This isn't a question too many landlord / property owners ask us - as they employ our service as a Property Management Company to avoid the hassle and liability that comes with direct contact with tenants.
But a property owner has asked us if they can review the credit / criminal / background check application and also the rental lease; so we've included information here to explain why it is a bad idea for a property owner to have tenant contact and why Philadelphia Property Managers don't typically allow this.
Why Can't I Preview the Credit / Criminal/ Background Check?
- The Fair Credit Reporting Act governs us as it should. A lot goes into effect when a tenant submits an application as there are many restrictions and many steps that must be taken once an application is received. One restriction is that we are not to disclose information collected from a 3rd party check. We can not share it with a property owner, the tenant's real estate agent and we are even governed by how we are to respond to the applicant.
- Fair Housing Laws. As a property owner, you are held by Fair Housing Laws, just as we are as a Property Management Company. This is as it should be. There are strict legal enforcements for the protected classes and the penalties are steep. An innocent seeming mistake can infringe on these laws. For example answering a potential tenant's question if there is a church in walking distance that they go to on Sundays infringes on these laws and carries penalties. Its a liability we do not want for our company, nor for our owners. And it's the right thing to do.
Here are a few reasons:
- The Main Reason is Liability. There is immense liability when a property owner contacts a tenant, or a potential tenant, directly. We are concerned for your liability, the tenant's liability and our own liability.
- Confrontations between tenants and landlords can be heated and even violent. During a recent visit at a property by a landlord in Wisconsin, a tenant allegedly shot the landlord in the head after being told that his rent was going up by $30. Even if you aren't going to the property to tell the tenant of a rent increase or something else that might upset the tenant, you have no way of knowing if the tenant is angry or prone to violence over other matters. There is no reason for you to risk your safety when these communications should all be handled by our staff. Here is a link to a news article about the shooting of the landlord: Man Kills Landlord Over $30 Rent Increase
- Anything that you say or do at the property could be held against you legally. Most owners are not at all familiar with landlord/tenant law. Even if you believe that you are, chances are pretty good that there's a whole lot that you don't know about this very broad legal subject. Our company has several law firms on retainer to deal with landlord/tenant issues, and even with our many years of experience in this field, we are constantly learning new things from our attorneys. Many landlords have gotten themselves in serious trouble by saying or doing something at a tenant-occupied property that they didn't realize was illegal. For example, one of our former clients had an arrest warrant issued against her because she went out to a property and had a vendor do a repair without proper notice to the tenant. The tenant filed charges for trespassing and unlawful eviction. Now that woman will forever have her mugshot show up online when her name is searched, all because she had a vendor do a repair at her own property. You don't want this to happen to you.
- Our insurance will not cover you, but it will cover all of our employees, agents, and vendors. The vast majority of real estate lawsuits are in the landlord/tenant arena, not in sales. If a tenant filed a lawsuit against you after you said something to the tenant or went to the property on your own, you would be left to pay for your legal defense, and your personal assets could be at risk from a judgment. When all communications are handled through us, our insurance covers all of this.
- When we're managing the property, we need to know everything that is going on so that we are best able to represent you and protect your interests. If communication is taking place directly between landlord and tenant, we are out of the loop and unable to do our job.
For these reasons, among many others, we do have a strict policy on this. It protects you, it protects us, and it even protects the tenant. It's in everyone's best interests to make sure that there is a single point of contact for all communications.
If you have any questions about this or anything else, please let us know.