Florida Tragedy Shows Background Checks Are a Crucial Tool for Landlords

For apartment complexes, housing rental communities, property management businesses, landlords, and any other entity renting out residential spaces to tenants, background checks are a critical part of the equation. While many landlords or leasing offices require tenant background checks during the resident applicant process, tenants are not the only people involved in this process who should be subject to thorough vetting.

Landlord background checks and building employee background checks are both vital–not just to protect the safety of tenants but also to shield property management companies from potentially costly legal liability risks.

Background checks for apartment complex employees are in the headlines in the wake of a Florida tragedy that claimed the life of a female college student. A 19-year-old woman living near Orlando was allegedly murdered by a 27-year-old maintenance worker at the apartment complex where she lived and worked.

Allegations indicate that the maintenance worker was “infatuated” with her and used a master key to enter her apartment. The young woman, Miya Marcano–a student at nearby Valencia College–went missing from her apartment complex on September 24. Her body was found a week later with her arms and legs bound with duct tape. The maintenance worker suspected of murdering Marcano, Armando Caballero, was found dead of an apparent suicide on September 27.

In the tragedy’s wake, Marcano’s parents and a bipartisan cross-section of Florida lawmakers introduced legislation that would make building employee background checks a legal requirement for all apartments and rental communities in the state.

Currently, Florida has no law that requires apartment complexes to conduct employee background checks. If passed, the bill would make landlords and property managers responsible for vetting every new hire, from maintenance workers to leasing agents to security guards. Those background checks would have to include both criminal history searches and sex offender registry checks for all employees.

Consequences for landlords who fail to comply with the legislation could include monetary fines or license revocations. Violators could lose their right to legally rent property to tenants.

The four-page bill would also stretch beyond background checks to force a shift in policy at apartment complexes regarding how and when landlords or other apartment employees enter a resident’s unit. Florida law currently stipulates that an apartment complex must give a tenant 12 hours of notice before entering their apartment unless they have received express permission or there is an emergency, among a few other exceptions. The bill inspired by Marcano’s death would double that time window from 12

hours to 24 hours. Typically, Florida law also only allows landlords to enter a tenant’s rental unit between 7 am and 8 pm; all involved parties must agree to permit entrances outside of this window.

Florida lawmakers have considered legislation to this effect in the past. In 2018, a proposed bill would have required landlords to show proof of employee background checks. That legislation never became law.

With or without a law in place, property managers should adopt thorough building employee background checks as a best practice along with their tenant background checks. Whether or not background checks are legally required, landlords could face negligent hiring lawsuits if an employee with a criminal or sex offender history hurts or kills a tenant.

At backgroundchecks.com, we can help property managers put together thorough background check processes for their employees and tenants. Tenants who wish to perform landlord background checks before renting a house or apartment can use our PeopleFinders background check.

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Michael Klazema

About Michael Klazema The author

Michael Klazema is the lead author and editor for Dallas-based backgroundchecks.com with a focus on human resource and employment screening developments

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