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Residential Land, Central London’s largest private landlord, has been reading about a new service that allows landlords to profile tenants by viewing their social media accounts.

While checking out a person’s characteristics and behaviour via online research isn’t anything new – it’s quite commonplace among employers during the recruitment process – it is a new idea in lettings. Statistics show that over half of employers have researched a job candidate on social media*, with 62% examining Facebook, 45% Twitter, and 44% LinkedIn. If the new service offered to landlords takes off, tracking likes, follows and flicking through digital photo albums could become a new tool in tenant referencing.

It is thought online research will uncover whether the tenant has a pet, throws wild parties, sublets, loses their job or spends extended periods of time away from the property – all things that may invalidate a tenancy agreement or jeopardise the ability to pay the rent.

Social media tracking is also being sold as a useful tool for managing tenants while in situ, especially as some milestone events might not be shared with a landlord as much as they are shared in cyberspace.

Online referencing, however, does pose the question: is social media ‘skimming’ a valid way of checking up on a tenant or is it borderline snooping?

Here’s the small print. The social media sites are only monitored with the tenant’s permission. Whether a tenant will then censor what they post because they know their landlord is looking, remains to be seen but it does question the validity of social media referencing.

Stuart Birke, Head of Lettings at Residential Land comments: “While we can see why landlords may want to have an additional check on their prospective tenants, as well as monitor the behaviour of those living in their properties, no one should rely solely on social media monitoring. At Residential Land we carry out very thorough checks and use a stringent referencing procedure to vet all tenants, investigating employment status, credit histories and behaviour in previous let properties. We then work hard to maintain a professional relationship with tenants during the whole tenancy, building a level of trust and first-hand communication that is reliable and honest.”

* Survey by Careerbuilder.co.uk May 2015

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Image source – Brafton