Landlords and Facebook
Last week the numbers of people on Facebook reached 500 million, it seems that everybody is on it.
The question is can landlords use this modern day phenomenon to their advantage?
It’s a generational thing. If you’re over 50 you may not be familiar with the phenomenon that is Facebook. If you are under 30 you’d be a social pariah if you don’t have an account. For many landlords that let their property to younger tenants. Using Facebook can be a useful way of taking a ‘sneak’ into a prospective tenant’s day to day life. Friends, background and party going antics can all be assessed to get a clear idea on what a landlord is taking on before they commit to letting out their property.
How to use it to ‘check out’ your tenants
A lot of landlords will use free marketing sights such as Gumtree to advertise their rental property. Even where they market their buy-to-let through traditional means they are likely to get an email address. Simply, copy that email address into the search box on Facebox and see what pops up.
Depending on the tenants privacy settings. It could be a lot. This may include photos and personal details about the prospective tenant. Also if the tenant is a member of a group on Facebook you can probably get an idea of their interests and the kind of people they associate with. For instance an unhealthy interest in heavy fire arms and violent death may spell trouble!
Don’t forget to reference your tenant as well
Facebook can be helpful if filling in the gaps and giving you a better understanding about the prospective tenant you are looking at. But never, forget to do a proper full vetting of the tenant.
This should include a credit check. Facebook won’t tell you if your tenants is a serial debtor. Remember my little tip on how to get underneath the finances of your prospective tenant by requesting to see their last 6 months worth of bank statements.
Facebook can also be used to ‘keep tabs on the state of your buy-to-let’
There was a recent case involving a landlord who came across picture of their buy-to-let on Facebook only to discover that their pristine rental property had been trashed by their apparently ‘nice’ middle class tenants over a period of 9 months.
Let’s be clear. I’m not advocating a landlord becomes a ‘cyber snooper’.
After all what next; installing CCTV in your buy-to-let? No that all gets a bit ‘Sex Lies and Video Tape.’
But let’s face it. The technology is there & you may as well make use of it. Remember it also cuts both ways. Tenants can check out their landlord; so personally I wouldn’t feel guilty about having the odd peak from time to time.
The other use of Facebook is if a tenant does a bunk. This can be useful in tracing the were abouts of a tenant that has run off without paying you. Whilst some tenants are happy to disappear into the ether without flinching leaving a trail of debt & damage. Young tenants wouldn’t want to suffer the ignominy of disappearing from the ‘psyber world’. Therefore, however ‘invisible’ they become in the real world; their virtual profile is likely to be up there on Facebook ‘loud & proud’ & more importantly up to date. If you can have a peak at it by being accepted as a friend; then this might just give you the lead you need to track them down and begin legal proceeding to recover your monies. This is because you will need a home address on which the legal notices need to be served. A work address is also useful so that any money order can be enforced as an attachment to earning order guaranteeing that the debt starts to be repaid.
Now you may ask why an ex-tenant would invite you as the ‘grubby’ landlord to their hallowed inner circle. Well off course they won’t. However, if you are a gorgeous looking blonde or a handsome ‘young buck’ then maybe they will & it doesn’t take much to create an alternative profile. On the Internet people aren’t always what they seem. I’m not advocating dishonesty, but then how can you condone the theft of your rent! There always more than one way to ‘skin a cat!’
No doubt following this article; Property Hawk will be barraged by emails from the flag waving ‘right on’ crowd ‘shocked & appalled’ at this invasion of a tenant’s privacy. My view is that if you ain’t done anything wrong; then there’s no need to worry.
The reality is that all of us landlords and tenants alike live in a ‘cyber world’; so we may as well get used to it and try & make it work for us.