Re: Reporting Bad Tenants and Precautionary Steps
From: Douglas G. Larson (
Date: Sun, 13 Mar 2011 10:57:46 -0700 (PDT)
I am not an attorney, but while I agree that it is fair to warn potential
landlords it is also prudent to be cautious with what words you use.

As an example, the word parasitize, while it may, in your opinion, aptly
describe your experience, it is a vague and possibly slanderous word.
Instead stick to just the facts, e.g. "I rented to them for 6 months and
they left the unit with $x of damage" or "They were repeatedly behind on
their rent", "they were repeatedly rude and verbally abusive to me (or other
residents)". Things along this line. Most of what I have read on this topic
in the last day or so does fit this "Just the facts" approach, but I thought
words like parasitize ought to be called out. 

I have been a landlord for about 4 years and I have had 5 renters during
that time, all of them very good. I, and the other landlords here in my
community do police background checks as well as ask for and check
references for all potential renters. In the state of Washington, police
background checks are open for anyone to request about anyone else, are easy
to do, cost $10 and can be done online.
While police background checks are easy here in Washington, they do tell you
that the person being checked may be notified of the fact. Consequently all
the potential renters I have done background checks on I have informed them
of the fact myself beforehand and to my knowledge they were never notified
by the police that the check had occurred. Check with your state for

Also, while police background checks are a prudent step, be aware of just
what information a check in your state will actually give you. Again, in the
state of Washington, background checks requested by ordinary citizens, while
permissible, will only reveal actual convictions. It won't reveal that
someone was simply accused of something that never led to a conviction, even
if a trial did take place. Institutions, like schools and Day Care
facilities are permitted to see information more than just convictions. 

Asking for and checking references, while an imperfect system, is probably
the best approach to weeding out people you don't want. As others have
pointed out the most recent previous landlord could be trying to get rid of
them and may not give the complete truth, or the references may be friends
of the potential tenant and total fabrications. 

Another step we take here at Songaia, and I have done with all my renters,
is to inform them that they need to meet and talk with as many people in the
community as possible as well as attend several (I tell them 3 or 4)
community events before I agree to rent to them. While this step is also not
perfect, it lends more than just the landlords eyes and ears to the
potential renters. I ask community members their thoughts on the potential
renter after they have done this. 

Douglas Larson,
Songaia Cohousing

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