Landlords See Increase in Crime

by Chris on February 13, 2012

Are you seeing more crime in your rental properties?

Landlords in Winnipeg have seen an increase in crime and suspected criminal activities, especially gangs, in recent years, according to the Professional Property Management Association.

A spokesman for the Association explained to a local  news reporter that crime places landlords in a difficult position, because they suspect something’s going on, but they may not be able to prove it.

RCMP warned landlords across Canada last year that rental properties are targets for drug operations and gang activities. In one instance, they reported how a motorcycle gang obtained access to a rental property by sending in an impostor to pose as the rental applicant. Criminals are more likely to look for rental properties because there they will enjoy a higher degree of anonymity.

Landlords and tenants alike lose out when there is crime on the property. Recently in Winnipeg, nineteen tenants were injured and several dozen were displaced after a fire erupted in their building. Gang-related arson is the suspected cause of the fire which consumed the entire building, according to the news report. While one suspected arsonist is 16 years old, two other alleged accomplices are adults.

Evicting a criminal tenant takes time, and may not happen soon enough to avoid harm to the property, or liability to other tenants. Prevention is key to avoiding income loss from crime.

Law enforcement officials recommend an aggressive tenant screening policy as an important step in reducing the risk of criminal activities in rental properties.

Landlords should require every adult applicant to complete a separate rental application, and screen each prospective occupant.

Running a credit check on prospective tenants can offer insight into the individual’s worthiness as a tenant, and even hint at criminal activities. For instance, discrepancies between the information in a credit report, and the information that the prospective tenant provides in the rental application can tip off the landlord that something’s not right — maybe this tenant is not who they say they are, or doesn’t have the financial stability that they claim to have.

A landlord should follow up with an applicant whose credit report shows that their income appears to come solely from cash transactions to make sure the source is legitimate. Also, a credit report can flag if the individual has lived at a previous address that they did not list on the application.  This could be a sign of trouble,  like a previous landlord dispute.

Speaking with the previous landlord is crucial to avoiding a dangerous tenant. Take steps to ensure that you are talking with the actual landlord, and not a friend of the applicant — a common scam.

Maintain the strictest guest policy allowed under your tenancy laws. If possible, prohibit the tenant from housing visitors with a history of violence or crime, and require long-term guests to undergo a tenant background check.

Keep close tabs on the property, including frequent property inspections. The may be the only way to discover  unauthorized guests or other signs of criminal activity.

Sign up for a Crime Free Multi-Housing certification program. This program is specifically tailored for landlords, and because local police participate in the training, this is the best way to learn how to spot crime trends that may be occurring in your area. The training often includes an on-site property evaluation that can flag ways to improve security.  This level of cooperation with local police is crucial to keeping your rental properties safe from crime.

This post is provided by Tenant Verification Service, Inc., helping landlords reduce the risks of renting with fraud prevention tools that include Tenant Screening, Tenant Background Checks, (U.S. and Canada), as well as Criminal Background Checks, and Eviction Reports (U.S. only).

Click Here to Receive Landlord Credit Reports.

Disclaimer: The information provided in this post in not intended to be construed as legal advice, nor should it be considered a substitute for obtaining individual legal counsel or consulting your local, state, federal or provincial tenancy laws.

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