Today, even the newest real estate investors with small portfolios are interacting daily with available technology that expedites their property acquisition, marketing, and the management process. From the listing to the move-out, they find and integrate real-time technology solutions. Imagine my surprise when I recently attended Real Estate Investors Association meetings on Crime Free Rental Housing and learned that many investors are still not adding open-source intelligence (OSINT) to their process.
Crime Free Programs are crime prevention solutions enacted with local law enforcement, which aim to prevent illegal activity from taking place in rental properties. In some municipalities, Crime Free Programs have mandatory education seminars and continuing education for landlords. I can certainly make a case that being a landlord requires foundational skills in conducting prospective tenant background screening or, at a minimum, hiring companies that do.
It’s time well spent to explore the tenets of Crime Free Programs. And with OSINT and a variety of tools now available in property management software, it’s easier than ever to integrate crime free steps into your process.
The CIA defines OSINT as information gleaned from “publicly available material,” including the internet, conventional mass media, photos, geospatial information and more. And according to Pew Research Center, as of January 2017, 69% of the public is on a social media platform. So, the odds are in your favor that your next prospective tenant has a social profile that you can use to validate items listed on the application. Facebook, one of the most popular platforms, can be utilized for advanced searches of all kinds.
A thorough landlord will verify all key areas of the application. They will use the phone numbers provided and follow up with current and previous employers and one or more prior landlords and references. Javelin Strategy and Research reported an all-time high level of identity theft in the last year — so it’s vital to document all identification and take a moment to authenticate. Be sure to select someone on your team to be detail-oriented when completing the verification of the application. Some of the top red flags to watch for include:
1. Urgency to move in before the first available date.
2. Errors, omissions and inconsistencies on the application.
3. Applicant is unable to provide an ID.
4. Applicant would like to bring cash.
5. Applicant is not able to provide a current address.
This is your investment property. Real estate investors purchase the property with the dream to achieve high returns on their buy and hold strategies. They target their desired range of return on the principal. It’s not always easy to predict unknown obstacles like a spike in a local real estate tax increase or an unexpected natural disaster, but certainly if you don’t use all the tools available as you are selecting the residents, you escalate your risks.
A more thorough process will make you better at reducing your interactions with fraudulent or criminal behavior. Don’t let criminals target you for your failed screening process. Knowledge is power, so while real estate investors look to integrate the latest in technology solutions, don’t forget to perform the basics of open-source knowledge.