Dos and Don’ts of Social Media for Landlords
These days, it’s easier than ever to connect with people and learn some valuable information about them. Social media and online platforms allow for an added layer of insight for employers, landlords, and others, looking to screen potential applicants.
When it comes to social media usage by landlords and property owners, trends show that screening the online profiles of applicants has picked up in recent years. Although useful in gaining some extra information regarding potential tenants, landlords should remain wary of both the advantages and disadvantages of social media vetting. There are certain practices that are beneficial for property owners in finding rental applicants, but also many activities that landlords should refrain from when reviewing Facebook or Twitter profiles. Having a distinct understanding of the dos and don’ts of social media will allow landlords to get the most out of online resources, without running the risk of unwanted complications in the future.
Do: Conduct Full Concrete Screening of Potential Tenants
This one goes without saying, but a full and thorough check is often overlooked. When renting out units in your property, make sure that all the bases are covered. This includes running a credit check, verifying the tenant’s income and employment status, conducting a criminal background check, and other such steps. Taking these steps from the onset will ensure no time is wasted in the process, and the potential tenant is qualified to rent the home.
Don’t: Rely Solely on Social Media for Screening
Sure, social media profiles can provide a general insight into what the potential tenant’s lifestyle might be like, but they are by no means a thorough way to screen applicants. Jumping to Facebook too quickly may cause complications in the process, and misperceptions of potential tenants, leading to less than optimal outcomes in finding renters.
Do: Use Social Media to Get an Understanding of Prospective Renters
Social media profiles are great for getting an overarching understanding of your applicants. This general background info can include things such as their current job and past jobs, their family and number of children, if they have any pets, and other lifestyle-related information. Landlords should use Facebook and LinkedIn profiles to get a better understanding of the professional and personal lives of potential tenants.
Don’t: Let Social Media Profiles Alter Your Judgment of Applicants
Looking too deep into social media information is a major red flag that landlords should keep an eye on. Using concrete evidence (i.e. background and employment verification) keeps landlords away from legal troubles, while using Facebook evidence can get you into it. Given Fair Housing laws and discriminatory regulations, landlords should take careful steps in ensuring their judgment isn’t altered by what they find online, so as to remain within the boundaries of the law.
Given the difficulty of determining where the legality line lies, some property management platforms like Onerent have taken measures to assist both landlords and tenants in the process, ensuring the privacy of both parties, and providing a means for property owners to remain within legal boundaries.
Do: Use it to Advertise Units or Communicate with Interested Tenants
One great thing about the evolution and robustness of social media is the ability for anyone to advertise their goods and services. This goes for landlords and property managers too, as they can simply post their vacancies on Craigslist, Facebook marketplace, or other similar areas and find renters at a more efficient pace. Snap some photos, write up a quick description, and advertise where thousands of individuals frequent daily.
Another great way for landlords to use social media is to communicate with their tenants easily and consistently. Although texts and phone calls are generally the most used, social media communication has become a primary way for many individuals to interact with others, and can be leveraged by landlords to get a hold of their renters more efficiently.
Don’t: Stalk Tenants and Overstep Tenant-Landlord Privacy Boundaries
Being friends with tenants provides a lens into their personal lives, which can sometimes create complications for landlords in interacting with their tenants. For example, many people tend to post about events and ongoings on their timelines, such as if they have made the decision to get a pet, if they are throwing a party, or early indications that they may be planning a move.
Regardless of the information they share, landlords should tread cautiously in bringing up any of these issues with their tenants, as overstepping these privacy boundaries can lead to a negative reputation of you and your rental units. To keep a positive relationship with tenants, landlords should only confront renters if their online post would breach the lease agreement, or as a way of identifying early signals that you should prepare yourself for.
Overall, it’s clear that social media screening can be used as a valuable tool for landlords and property owners in understanding their tenants. However, in the same way that it provides benefits, there are also consequences that landlords should be aware of. By abiding by the basic dos and don’ts mentioned above, you can keep yourself within the boundaries of legal regulations, ensure that prospective tenants are screened properly, and find yourself a pleasant and qualified renter for your unit.