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Background Checks

March 1, 2007

4 Min Read
Background Checks

One of the most cost-effective ways to limit risk is by reducing criminal activity among tenants and employees through effective background screening.

As the owner of a multimillion-dollar facility, would you blindly hand over the keys to strangers without wanting to know as much about them as possible? Remember, your employees have access to a great deal of personal information pertaining to you and your tenants. If you make a bad hire, you run the risk of confidential information getting into the wrong hands. You may unwittingly create an atmosphere ripe for identity theft or an employee raid of company assets.

On the other side of the counter, you dont want a convicted criminal renting a unit or you run the risk of increased criminal activity, property damage and endangerment of everyone at your facility.

Screening Providers

If you retain a top-tiered national screening provider, expect to access products and services without having to pay initial set-up fees, monthly minimums, annual fees or training costs. Instead, the company will ask you to complete a service agreement. Activation of a new screening account typically takes 24 to 72 hours.

The nations top background-screening providers are web-based, giving you the ability to access the system and process an application round the clock. Information is accessed online through a secure Internet account; rarely will software need to be installed. Of course, user IDs and passwords should be established and provided to employees using the system.

So Many Options

One of the most popular searches is a comprehensive criminal background check. Along with criminal convictions, this report should include a search of the FBIs Most Wanted list, the Office of Foreign Asset Control list and a National Sex Offender Search.

Three main types of criminal reports are available: county, statewide and multi-state. Each has its advantages and disadvantages. While the local county search checks only a single county, it tends to be the most accurate and up-to-date. On the other hand, statewide and multi-state searches are instantly returned and cover a wider area. However, included conviction information may pertain only to serious crimes.

State searches usually canvas data from the Administrative Office of the Courts (AOC) or the Department of the Corrections. Occasionally, you will also see the Department of Public Safety if theyve chosen to participate in the state database. AOC files are more complete because they include some county level data as well. You should talk with your provider to check options in your area. Being educated about available data and how it meets your needs should be a top priority. You may need to customize your search based on your facilitys location and types of criminal activity you are looking to screen against.

Credit Reports

Credit reports help identify serious patterns of delinquency, which can predict an applicants ability and willingness to pay rent. Credit reports can also provide previous address information, useful in determining where to conduct a criminal search. Many credit reports will include Social Security number fraud detection to assist in verifying your applicants identity.

The tenant screening process should be unique to each facility. Create a standard, objective and consistent criterion by which you make rental decisions. Your chosen screening provider can implement a score value reflecting your acceptance criteria. You may choose to see back-up documentation (actual reports) or to receive only the final verdict. In either case, if you choose to deny any applicant you must give the person an adverse-action letter, which should be automatically provided by your screener. All applicants have a right to obtain a free copy of their consumer credit files if they have recently been denied.

If you have a rental truck you loan to new or existing tenants, it would be nice to know if they have a poor driving record, invalid or suspended license or alcohol-related driving infractions. Most screening companies can instantly access motor-vehicle reports. This may help limit your liability exposure.

Your Employees

Did you know your company could be legally liable for negligent hiring if you fail to thoroughly check an applicants background? Misrepresentations and exaggerations on job applications are becoming more and more common. More than 35 percent of potential employees have a criminal record, bad driving record, fake Social Security number or a workers compensation claim. Considering the time and expense to hire and train a new employee, its certainly worthwhile to implement a comprehensive pre-employment screening program.

An effective screening program can benefit your organization in many ways. Most important, it will provide your patrons and employees with a safer and more secure environment while limiting your companys risk and liability exposure. Choose the screening provider that works best for your facilitys goals. 

Lori T. Murphy is a national sales consultant for Trak-1 Technology, a national provider of web-based background screening solutions. Trak-1 provides companies with access to screening data for use in tenant and pre-employment screening. For more information, call 877.722.1751; e-mail [email protected]; visit www.trak-1.com

For more information about self-storage security, check out "Security: Choosing Tools, Protecting Your Investment," a 32-page e-book available through the Self-Storage Training Insititute. Click here for more info!


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