Bad Tenant Database - Searchable for landlords

13 Replies

I am working to create a private tenant database for my local community to be accessed only by landlords.The system will allow landlords to list the tenant’s info, property address rented, rate the tenant, upload photos of damage, and describe the circumstances of their departure from the property (ie – do they still owe rent).It’s accessible from a phone for landlords to upload and check.The idea is to create a way for a quick prescreen of potential tenants.It’s searchable by name and or address (of their previous rented location).

I’m developing this as a way to help hold bad tenants accountable for their actions and to provide some level of honest & accurate screening.

There are some potential challenges with landlords abusing the system.However, if pictures are provided or required to document damages I think that will go a long way to avoiding this.Also, I doubt landlords are going to take the time to slam a tenant who doesn’t deserve it as it would provide no value to the landlord.

In my lease I include a line highlighting the “landlord’s right to report”, which outlines that I will be reporting on the tenants actions to a 3rd party data management company.Think of this as reporting to a credit bureau.The feedback from my renters has been interesting.They are worried about future landlords seeing this and it seems to be having a positive impact.

I’m curious to know if landlords in other communities would find this of value.I’m also curious to know any thoughts you have on this.I’m hoping this would be something adopted by cities to help landlords manage bad renters.My community has been on a rampage of blaming landlords for all of the ill’s in the community.Yet they provide zero assistance in actually addressing bad renters.

@Ryan Neuwoehner

Hey Ryan.. Interesting.  We had the idea awhile back for something similar for (bad) contractors.  The folks willing to share and digest info in this way could certainly benefit, however as you allude to there are also privacy and discriminatory traps rampant in going this direction.  I suppose we might find value if we could quickly and reliably search for something like this.  However, many of these types of scenarios are conflict ridden and it gets dangerous to only rely on one side of the story.  For that reason, I suspect you would be fighting various organizations tooth and nail to do something like this at a 'business' scale/level.  Those organizations might even be things like the ACLU or Tenants Rights organizations because it only takes one established case of the info being used in a discriminatory way, and there's a clear organization/etc to point the finger at and crucify.

Thanks for the feedback.

I’ve taken these considerations into account. In speaking with my attorney he has assured me that I’m in no legal jeopardy by creating a space where landlords (in a private network) can share their opinions about a previous tenant.  A good example of this occurring is where tenant groups are posting publicly negative unsubstantiated comments regarding “slum lords” on facebook.  They are also posting their home addresses and linking these posts to their family member’s accounts.This is occurring in our community regularly.

I do have concerns about the potential negative spiral a database like this could take.  However, my concerns are outweighed by the potential positives landlords (and the community) could receive from having this info at their fingertips.  Especially if pictures are provided.  Pictures usually don’t lie.  Also, what would be the value for a landlord to slam a decent tenant?  I guess it could happen, but I’m not sure why or how often it would occur.

Last year I was contacted by a landlord in town who found out I had just (that morning) rented to a single mom.  She sent me pictures of the home her and her boyfriend had just destroyed.  She informed me that they still owed her two month’s rent.  I would like to have known this info prior to renting to her.  She was only 21 and said she’d lived with her father her entire life.  Long story short, I am still renting to her.  I made her sign a new lease (since she lied on her application), did double deposit, made sure the boyfriend is on the lease, and I inspect the home more frequently.  Having this info has allowed me to better manage this property.

Information is crucial in this business and currently landlords are at a major disadvantage.  This imbalance allows people to avoid responsibility for their actions.It also prevents communities from incrementally improving their citizen population.  This would be an additional step, just like a criminal background check, credit check, reference check, etc…

Sounds good on paper..... but its a huge lawsuit waiting to happen. Lawyers will have a field day with it...discrimination etc etc.

Same reason as calling a previous employer about a former employee....they are basically stuck with " I would/would not hire them again" and that's about all they can say without getting sued...and most wont go past "yes they used to work here form date X to date Y

Best way to combat issues with bad tenant is to screen them aggressively..... especially call their last 2-3 landlords and actually talk to them. The current landlord may sugar coat it just to get rid of them but the previous ones got no skin in the game anymore. Get direct referrals....don't rely on a basic background check

Love the idea and it would be immensely helpful to landlords in the area....but logistically its got a lot of issues that would need to be dealt with before this would ever fly on a larger scale

If you can pull it off without getting your *** sued on a regular basis, then more power to you

There are also FCRA (Fair Credit Reporting Act) requirements for something like this. If a file or list is maintained on tenants that is accessible to others outside your organization to make rental decisions, it is subject to the FCRA. Definitely research landlord responsibilities under the Act.

Thanks for the feedback and suggestions.  I'm going to visit again with my attorney prior to pulling the trigger on this.  Still working the bugs out of the software. 

However, I'm nearly certain that a private group can share any information they want amongst the group.  I see public reviews of nearly everything online and I've never heard of anyone being sued because someone left a bad review.  In fact, some cities to maintain a list of tenants that have had significant reports made against them.  Although this is not common. 

Then how is it that there are tons of publicly displayed criticisms of landlords and other businesses?  I see these on facebook all of the time.  Some of them are very nasty and totally unfounded.  Additionally, I see landlord review sites on the internet open to the public.

I can't imagine a closed group can't share info on past renters.  Especially if they include pics.  I'd like to make it public to shame people that trash homes.  However, I think that'd be going to far. 

I'll be meeting with a different lawyer soon to see if they have a different take than my personal attorney. 

Thanks

Its different when you review a public business vs a private person. Your review of a private person may have direct and profound effect on their ability to rent, buy etc. They may never be able to rent in the area again and have to move (they may deserve that but....)...claim that you slandered them, had racial bias etc etc....

Review a business and they can still stay in business even if you didn't like them but 100 other did etc. I've dealt with BS reviews of my work place on YELP and its not fun....they are often very one side lies and there is near ZERO I can do about it....but YELP is just the platform, not the one making the review

You are essentially making a formal private blacklist.... and if it becomes public in some way, you will be the one left holding the bag.

Cities are making lists of people based on legal documents...evictions, fines, arrests, judgments...all documented legal cases.... not personal reviews...huge difference. They are presenting really verified data.... you are providing one persons account of the situation.

Well said.  I'll update you on what I find out from a legal perspective.  The blackball situation could be a real problem.  I sure hope this is a possibility because it would be of major value to both landlords and to the communities saturated with renters that game the system. 

I appreciate your feedback. 

Try to look at it this way with an example we can all relate to...

As a patron I go to a local Applebee's and don't have a great experience....the wait is long, the service is slow, the foot is cold, the drinks are watered down. Many people would go on FB, IG, Snapchat Yelp etc and blast Applebee's....maybe their accounting is hugely bias and not the real truth...but that's how they see it. As another patron I can see their post and decide how I want to take it. Do I boycott Applebee's or do I say to myself "I like the place, have had great experience, maybe it was a fluke...I'm still going to dine there" or "wow I'm never going there again"...my choice on how to take that post. Got lots of options either way

Flip side...

As the manager of Applebee's..... how do you think it will fly if I come up with a list of all the horrible patrons that come into my location and publish it to all the other restaurants in the area. "Mrs Smith is a *****....she tips horrible, complains about everything, her kids are loud and obnoxious and she smells". You may be dead on right about everything.....or you may have just caught her on a horrible day and she is usually fantastic. Now she is on some blacklist and all the other restaurants are on the lookout for her and will try and find a way to not do business with her. She is going be to limited in her options after she hits that list.

Now if Mrs Smith is using stolen CC or checks or skipping on the bill and you have filed legal charges, then you can show documentation that she has violated the law and you want the other restaurants to have a head up.

So I love the idea in principle....would love to know who all the deadbeats are before they cross my path......and there are some legal ways to try and weed those out, but not perfect.......but bottom line is that forming a list of all the bad tenants in your area is a lawyers dream to sue you as a business for discrimination.

Best you can really do is file legal documents like evictions etc rather that do stuff "off the books" and be honest with other landlords when they call for references etc. Doing informal "hey look out for this guy" when you meet up with other landlords is one thing...having a database is another

Those who were evicted legally are automatically included in national rental db.  What is not included is the marginal tenants who were asked to leave or leased aborted.


Not to overcook the ethics issue, but the example provided highlights the rationale behind this sort of an application.  If a customer at Applebee’s is destructive in any capacity or decides they are not going to pay for their meal the manager has the option of calling the police and having them arrested.  They would then have a public record.  A landlord doesn’t have that option.  There would therefore be no need to create a list of these types of customers to be shared.

Again, this is not a system designed to complain about tenants landlords don’t care for as in your example highlighting the bad tipper annoying customer suggests.  It’s designed as a place to share (in private) details about how business was conducted.  Did they destroy the property?  Did they not pay their rent?  Having photographs of said damage would be of importance.

I know of a very large public website focused on the pharmaceutical industry where hundreds of “bad mangers” have been outed on their forums.  Folks make some pretty extreme claims on the website and I know careers have been damaged.  And no one has ever been prosecuted.  These are claims that are unsupported by any verifiable facts.  Additionally, if I were to out a bad tenant on bigger pockets I don’t think BP would be at risk of being sued.

To sue for defamation one must prove the statement is false.  In a case where pictures are provided this would be pretty tough.

I believe there could be some potential legal issues that I have to sort through before moving forward with this.  But I don’t believe ethically I’d have anything to worry about.  If a person destroys property and/or refuses to pay for services rendered they deserve whatever fate they receive.  And other vendors deserve to have access to this information if it’s out there.

Lastly, I'm not sure how this is any different than a typical reference check.  I don't think I can be sued if another landlord calls me and asks me about a previous renter.  This is just a more formal and proactive way of managing this information. 

I wish there were a national database just like reviews for contractors. Owners could put in some basic facts from a drop-down menu to ensure there were no emotional claims, name-calling, etc. Then they could attach pictures, documents, or other supporting material to prove their case.

I've had the idea for years but am also worried about tenants with deep pockets suing the web site constantly.