The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA

October 4, 2013

Rent control | Website can link good landlords with tenants


The Tribune-Democrat

JOHNSTOWN — Being a landlord – at least a truly good landlord – can be a difficult job.

There are many duties to attend to in terms of maintenance and upkeep in order to take care of tenants’ needs as well as making sure that tenants are upholding their end of the bargain. And that’s just after both parties have entered into a rental agreement. There is plenty more that goes into determining which prospective tenants are acceptable applicants while also adhering to fair-housing laws.

Sadly, just asking about an applicant’s background doesn’t always lead to an honest response.

That’s why the Greater Johnstown Landlord Association has developed a tool it hopes will help landlords find desirable tenants while avoiding individuals who might cause criminal or financial problems.

A recently launched website – gjlandlords.com/tenant_screening.html – aims to take the guesswork out of the process for landlords. Using it, landlords can search applicants’ backgrounds through court documents and credit reports.

If used correctly, the website can help landlords eliminate tenants who could be headaches not just for them but for the entire neighborhood.

“Our members and landlords often complain it’s too difficult to do thorough background checks,” Rich Hudec, a landlords’ association member, told our Dave Sutor. “This website is kind of a one-stop

shop.”

We’re all for improving the process and helping them find the right tenants.

Rental housing has become a big issue in Johnstown in recent years and was even mentioned by the Johnstown Crime and Violence Commission. The ad hoc panel felt improved accountability for landlords and tenants could help reduce crime in the city.

We hope that is the case. The first step in that process is making sure that landlords find suitable tenants, which makes for a win-win situation. When a drug dealer or career criminal moves in next door, it does more than potentially lower the property value; it also puts neighbors at risk and elevates the likelihood of crime taking place there.

Of course, it also puts the landlord in a difficult – and possibly dangerous – position, as eviction can be a time-consuming and expensive process.

That’s why it’s much better to find out as much as possible about prospective tenants ahead of time.

As the Greater Johns-town Landlord Association website says, “spending a few minutes and a few dollars up front can save trouble and thousands of dollars later.”