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Should landlords show tenants proof of workers' background checks?

Under proposed 'Tenant Notification Act,' landlords would have to do so

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TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – Landlords soon could be required to provide residents with proof showing they have conducted background checks on the people working in apartment complexes.

Failure to provide notices would give tenants the right to cancel their lease.

Part-time college student Mary Beasley has been renting her apartment for almost a year. At times, she said, she isn’t comfortable with the maintenance staff. 

“And it scares me,” Beasley said. “A lot of the times when I come home, I’m getting stares from these men who are working all around. I’ve never even seen them before. I know nothing about them.”

Under proposed legislation known as the Tenant Notification Act, renters such as Beasley would have to be told, in writing, whether the landlord has run background checks on anyone with access to the premises.

State Sen. Greg Steube is sponsoring the legislation.

“If there (are) people working in these large complexes, and they’re not (conducting) background checks on whether they are sex offenders or not, and they have access to people’s homes, to me, that’s a problem,” said Steube, R-Sarasota.

Landlord Erwin Jackson, who rents more than 250 apartments, already runs background checks, but bristled at the idea of being forced to run them or notify tenants.

“And see, (there is) no reason I should take that information and provide it to my tenants,” Jackson said. “I think there is a privacy (issue) there.” 

If the idea becomes law, people who have already signed a lease and find out there was never a background check performed would be entitled to cancel the lease -- and get their full deposit back. 

Beasley likes the idea.

“I think that it’s after moving in that you start, you know, seeing everything -- maybe all the bad people around,” Beasley said.

Some details of the proposal are still being worked out, including how many units are in a complex before the background check notice would apply.

The Level One background checks called for in the legislation cost $24 per person.