It's a hot topic that was part of the National Multi-HousingAssociation convention in Chicago last week. Mark Hayden, Arizona'sexecutive director, says awareness is heightened and the pressure'son for property managers to be even tougher gatekeepers."Everyone's looking at it," Hayden tells "Thechallenge is you can't screen for things they (tenants) haven'tdone yet." He predicts that criminal background checks will becomestandard procedure, and possibly mandated, as a result of Sept. 11.He strongly advocates linking convictions to readily accessibledatabases to make everyone's job easier.

David Carner, vice president of market development forDallas-based RealPage Inc., says the problem arises when a would-betenant has been in the country less than 90 days. That's whenproperty managers and screening services turn to a case-by-casereview to decide whether to turn over a key. Otherwise, there's along list of checks and balances that must be met by a prospectivetenant: social security number, job and salary verification,criminal background, prior rental history, check writing history,fraud review and credit scrutiny. It's routine procedure at the onemillion units that RealPage screens for clients nationwide.

In states such as Texas and Arizona, RealPage each month turnsover a list of applicants' names to the FBI for background checksto help weed and sort who gets in the door. Fair Housing laws arefollowed but, Carner says, "it's not illegal to turn someone downbecause they don't have proper papers."

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