Tenant screening is routine in the rental business, and for good reason, but too often landlords and property managers overlook the necessary background checks for contractors and vendors. While you might consider checking for proper licensing and bonding information doing your due diligence, your duty to provide a safe environment requires a little more. Consider, for example, that the painter you just hired has a criminal history you know nothing about. A thorough background check could save your tenants’ laptop from being boosted, and you from an expensive lawsuit.
For some, it may be obvious to complete a criminal background check on an individual contractor or handyman, but your responsibility may not be as clear when dealing with larger commercial companies who have their own employees or subcontractors. It is still a good idea to assume nothing; asking what measures a company takes to ensure their employees and contractors are devoid of any criminal history is the smartest way to protect both your tenants and yourself.
While workplace violence is uncommon, it is far better to be prepared than to not. Workplace theft is unfortunately quite common, and more common still is tenant unhappiness with the quality of work.
Here are some ways you can protect your tenants and yourself from vendors or contractors who may have serious criminal histories:
Checking online customer review platforms, such as the Better Business Bureau and AngiesList.com, is an easy and inexpensive way to start. As always, look for providers with more than just one or two reviews, and look at the critical reviews as well as the positive ones.
Every contractor/vendor with whom you do regular business should sign a contractor agreement which includes their consent to a criminal background check. Any vendor or contractor who is opposed to this practice begs the question of “Why?” Use your best judgement here.
If you do not already have a vendor management and compliance policy in place, now is the time for you to consider implementing one. Your policy should clearly state that all vendors are subject to criminal background checks. It should also indicate that larger commercial companies have to provide a copy of their screening policies for their employees and contractors. Having a copy of that policy on file for these vendors should aptly cover you in the event of any legal action. Of course, all of your employees must have criminal background checks on file as well.
If your company is large enough to have someone designated to oversee vendor management and compliance, all the better. If not, you can manage this task on your own with a simple spreadsheet which lists all of your vendors, the date and type of screening tool used (either the same resource used for screening tenants or a more thorough vendor screening service). Your spreadsheet should also include the results of the criminal background check. Of course, the criminal background reports should be maintained in the vendor’s file.
Naturally there are costs associated with criminal background screenings. The costs of these screenings should be passed on to the vendors and contractors. If you choose to use a vendor screening service, the service may be a bit pricier than the usual criminal background checks, however many of these services provide thorough histories which are well worth the price. Be aware that a vendor/contractor’s refusal may be an unwillingness to pay and not necessarily an indication that they are hiding something. Nevertheless, ultimately it’s your reputation and business on the line if something were to happen to one of your tenants or the work performed is shoddy and must be redone.
Remember the old truth: “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.”
Do you have a vendor management and compliance policy in place? How do you screen your vendors/contractors?