Tips for Running Background Checks on Tenants With Pets
For many landlords, choosing not to rent to tenants with pets (cats and dogs) is choosing not to deal with the issues that come with our furry companions: property damage, noise issues, excess wear and tear, liability, etc. But according to a national survey of pet owners conducted by the American Pet Product Association (APPA), nearly 50% of homeowners also own a dog and at least 45% own a cat. That’s a huge percentage of the population and representative of a whole lot of potential business.
Some landlords opt to lend to pet owners on a case by case basis, incorporating added fees to compensate for additional wear and tear on the property. Landlords should put into effect these and other safeguards to safely and conscientiously lend to pet owners while protecting their investment property.
How to Properly Screen Tenants with Pets
- First, confirm with your insurance company how your coverage extends to pet-owning tenants in terms of liability protection.
- Second, meet the pet. Get as much information about the pet(s) in question as you can and make an in-person introduction. Assess the pet’s behavior and determine if you it on the property. If the tenant intends to get a pet in the future, consider a weight limit and request to be informed of the selection beforehand.
- Third, conduct a thorough background check of the tenant that includes interviews with former landlords and even neighbors. What kind of pet owner was the prospective tenant? Did they pick up after the pet? Was the pet given exercise or was it kenneled for long periods of time? Were there barking issues or biting incidents? Ask targeted questions to get workable answers.
- Fourth, make sure the pet clause in your lease agreement is iron tight. There may be fines for neglecting to pick up waste. The pet may be required to be spayed or neutered. There may be a weight limit, restrictions on multiple animals. Whatever you decide, make sure you are familiar with fair housing laws concerning service animals.
- Fifth, while it can be argued that some animals do less property damage than their humans, in general, housing an animal means the occasional accident on the carpet, chewed molding, scratched flooring, or holes dug in the lawn. Because of this, it is normal and fair to increase the base rent and/or make a larger portion of the deposit nonrefundable.
Talk to a rep to learn more about how you can protect your property while renting to pet owners by running thorough background checks.
Massachusetts Background Check Laws Receive Pushback from Uber and Lyft
At the end of 2016, Massachusetts passed the strictest background check laws in the country for ride-sharing employees of Uber and Lyft. Now those laws are getting significant pushback from representatives of both organizations in the state after losing thousands of their drivers.
Provisions of the law required that all by April 2017 all drivers undergo the new vetting procedures. The result was 8,200 drivers losing their jobs. The vetting procedures mandated that drivers:
- pass state background checks
- are not registered sex offenders
- clear a search of their criminal records
Proponents of the law are encouraged by the fact that at least hundreds of these drivers were discovered to have a history of serious past violent and sexual crimes, proving that the companies’ previous background check practices were not sufficient. But detractors are critical as many of the banned drivers were either convicted of crimes decades ago, had committed minor road offenses that had resulted in license suspensions, or had not received convictions at all but had settled. The provisions have left these drivers with limited options for appealing the decision and reclaiming their jobs.
What Do Ride-Sharing Companies Want?
Both Uber and Lyft have made statements regarding amendments to the provision that they hope will be considered before the Department of Public Utilities (DPU) crafts final rules regarding their vetting practices.
- Drivers who have agreed to a type of settlement called “continuance without a finding,” which is not a conviction due to lack of evidence, cannot be disqualified.
- Background checks should not extend back further than seven years for certain violations.
- DPU should not have the power to disqualify drivers who have not failed the background check, in which DPU makes a decision that the individual is “likely to act” in certain dangerous ways based on subjective determinations.
Is there a way to simultaneously protect passengers of ride-sharing cars while also addressing ban-the-box-type provisions for background checks? Share your thoughts in the comments.
The Strength of Mentoring
As a background investigation company, we operate in the HR space, and are always interested in learning more about management best practices. In our own company, we work to improve the training, development and caring of individuals at all levels and areas. Our best effort takes the form of a robust mentoring program. A 2016 article from Forbes stated that, “mentoring is the key to success for young professionals.” The seminal 2004 “The Women and Men in U.S. Corporate Leadership: Same Workplace, Different Realities” report stated that, “having an influential mentor was among the top career advancement strategies.” At Victig, we’ve built a robust mentoring program where everyone receives either an internal or external coach or mentor. As we’ve researched mentoring, we’ve found the following consistent components comprise a quality program:
- Mentoring must be voluntary; don’t pressure team members. Any type of forced partnering, which could include social pressure or perceptions that “mentoring is a path towards promotion” will undermine quality mentoring.
- Work to build a culture around coaching, learning and constant improvement. Overly constructed strategy efforts tend to fail under their own weight. Alternatively, developing cultures of learning and patience, ones that acknowledge that strategy is crafted over time, encourage mentoring relationships.
- Peer mentoring is just as important as more common senior/junior relationships.
- Ask your team members what they value. Not only is this critical for building appropriate compensation packages, it’s central to development, training and coaching. Good team members will inform their leadership what they value in their professional experiences.
- Strive for an equal workplace. Great companies and organizations work to even the interpersonal and power dynamics in their organizations, and ensure that everyone feels and knows they’re valued.
- Open up cultural issues and problems to everyone. Many owners and managers feel like this deeper work is their domain. Our experience suggests that asking team members to develop solutions to company culture enfranchises everyone, and encourages deeper and more meaningful interaction throughout a company.
- Use social media to build these ongoing cultural and coaching conversations.
- Maintain transparency in all interactions. The strongest organizations leverage openness to encourage a variety of positive results.
While the above items have become our approach to mentoring, engaged organizations will of course craft and adjust programs to fit their needs. By doing so, teams are likely to see quality improvements in morale, productivity and camaraderie.