After the shooting death of a 27-year-old realtor at an open house late last week, the head of the realty firm that she worked with issued a plea to other agents on Facebook, “I am asking that all of you immediately cancel any open houses you have scheduled over this weekend.”
Police currently have no leads in the shooting other than a vague description of a “scruffy man” leaving the area in an SUV. The crime occurred in the early afternoon. It appears no one heard the shots fired.
Rental property owners and property managers face similar risks of assault and theft while showing rental property. While there are some safety precautions that can be taken to discourage crime, the wisdom of offering open house tours is coming under question in the wake of this, and other senseless tragedies involving real estate professionals.
Aside from risking the personal safety of landlords and leasing agents, open houses pose a problem when it comes to tenant screening. If the open house is arranged by open invitation–like an ad posted in the newspaper, there is no way to effectively prescreen the people who may be wandering through the property.
From a business standpoint, the only way an open house can be effective is the ‘shock and awe’ aspect of having many applicants touring the property at once, serving as both an incentive for interested candidates to fill out an application and claim their place in the queue, and a way to save the landlord countless trips to the property to fill a vacancy. But if turnout is good, the landlord is too busy to listen to each applicant for clues about their rental history. If turnout is poor, then the tables are turned, and the landlord may be the one offering incentives to the few available renters.
An open house format is not practical when it comes to occupied properties because it violates the privacy of the current tenant.
Whether a property is shown privately or by open house, safety risks remain and landlords and leasing agents need to protect themselves by first meeting the applicant off-site. Verifying the person’s identity through a photo ID can offer some protection. Allowing the applicant to know that their identification and vehicle description have been recorded off-site may discourage the less brazen criminals who are looking for an easier target. Working in groups or having a form of open communication during the tour may offer the opportunity to deter crime, or provide the valuable seconds needed to escape the danger.
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).
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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.