How to Screen Renters or Owners–Some Thoughts and Possible Consequences of Screening Applicants

Is your community secure? Will screening help?

Welcome to the second article in our How To Series!  In the next few posts, we’ll be discussing how to screen renters or owners.

In April of this year, a Nova Southeastern University professor, Joseph Morrissey, was slain in his home.  The alleged killer, Randy W. Tundidor, had rented a townhome from Mr. Morrissey at The Vineyards of Plantation in South Florida.  On it’s surface, it appeared to be a random tragedy.

But in July Mrs. Morrissey, Joseph’s widow, filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the management company and the condominium association for The Vineyards, despite the facts that the death didn’t occur in the community and that Mr. Morrissey didn’t live in the community.  Her claim?  That because the association had screened Mr. Tundidor before allowing him to rent the unit, they had a duty to uncover and report past events, such as prior evictions, that would have identified Mr. Tundidor as a problematic tenant, potentially avoiding Mr. Morrissey’s death.  You can read more about her lawsuit here.

Now, I imagine that a few of you are reading this open-mouthed, and I have to admit that this legal claim seems extremely thin.  For one thing, Florida state law prevents associations from divulging any information obtained through tenant screening.  For another, we would have to believe that the failure to uncover benign events, such as prior evictions, could proximately cause the professor’s death—that it was reasonable to assume that a tenant who had been evicted in the past was a physical danger to either the association or the renter.  Seems like a stretch.

But, regardless of the outcome of the lawsuit, it illustrates just one of the usually unseen pitfalls of a condo association or HOA choosing to screen potential rental or sale applicants.  So I wanted to spend some time in this series of blogs discussing screening in general—what are the benefits, what are some of the drawbacks, and how can board members and associations protect themselves effectively?

Over the next few days I’m going to discuss screening procedures–what can you expect from them, and do they do what you think they do?

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