Magazine article Journal of Property Management

Shark Attack

Magazine article Journal of Property Management

Shark Attack

Article excerpt

As resident manager of a 39-unit live/work building in Oakland, Calif., I thought I had seen and heard it all. However, in recent months, I have observed a new trend that is worth mentioning to every site manager you employ.

My property is a fairly upscale security building with a solid middle-class tenant mix. Yet three times in the last two months I have been contacted in person, on the phone, and through the mail - by people attempting to contact current or former tenants. They have all been bill collectors.

These folks are not shy about demanding personal, confidential information. Sometimes they ask nicely; often they assert it is their "right" to access the information. The pieces of mail (addressed to "landlord") that I received from one agency demanded that I answer within 24 hours and "in order to avoid unnecessary delays, please use the tenant's application to verify the following immediately." The letter then goes on to request move-in date, tenant's home phone, place of employment, business phone, and more. While the top of the form is marked "tenant verification," it is clearly a ruse.

If I were to satisfy the demands for the types of information requested in this letter, especially using the rental application as a source, I would open myself and the company I work for to a lawsuit from the tenant. Most resident managers are familiar with the issues and the types of questions that can and cannot be asked in a legitimate tenant screening. However, given the persistent caginess displayed by the collection industry, resident managers need to stay on their toes.

The most recent example I have encountered is a "law office" that called and left a vague message that it was trying to get in touch with a current tenant. Since there had been a recent death in this tenant's family, I thought it was a legitimate call. I called back, only to find that the office was a process server who was calling to verify the apartment number and the times the tenant would be home.

Another incident occurred when a repo man caught me outside watering the plants and asked me to let him in because he could "see" his property (Jet Skies) through the window. When I refused, the man stayed near the building for a while, hoping someone would let him in. He could be a legitimate creditor or an opportunistic thief - who knows? …

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