Can I/should I do background checks on my building super?
February 1, 2010 1:33 PM   Subscribe

How do I protect myself from a situation like the one I read about (inside), where a sex-offender was hired as a super and was allegedly being inappropriate? Can I/should I ask for background checks from anyone who has keys/access to my apartment, since it seems like the landlord is not required to do so (in NYC)?

I just read this article, where, unbeknownst to the tenants (and the landlord, according to the landlord), a level-3 sex-offender was hired as a super, with keys to the apartments, and was allegedly propositioning tenants for sex in exchange for favors, etc.

I don't want to be hysterical. I know that people who have done time have a right to work. I'd like to just have faith that my landlord is doing background checks and making those judgment calls on my behalf, but in this case, it didn't seem like the landlord did, and he doesn't seem to care after the fact.

And I understand that the allegations of the super's propositions are just allegations. I don't know what the legislation is as far as what jobs registered sex-offenders are allowed to hold, but I'd like to be able to choose not to live in a building where the super (or anyone else with keys, like maintenance people or even the landlord) is a level-3 offender.

How do I protect myself from this kind of situation? Is the landlord required to do this check and in this case just didn't do his duty, or is this something that I need to be responsible for on my own? And should I do it? I don't want to be violating reasonable privacy of the employees.
posted by thebazilist to Home & Garden (15 answers total)
FWIW, you can't just "do a background check" on someone. You need consent.
posted by mkultra at 1:39 PM on February 1, 2010

mkultra: "FWIW, you can't just "do a background check" on someone. You need consent."

You can run a search on Intelius, but it'll cost you like $50.
posted by IndigoRain at 1:45 PM on February 1, 2010

mkultra, arrest records are public record, and court records are usually public record too. And so are many other things that you wouldn't assume were public record. Nobody needs consent to obtain any of that information.
posted by Ashley801 at 1:46 PM on February 1, 2010

I think your best bet is the guy's name and a Google search. Your landlord has some responsibility, probably, as the person's employer but I would imagine background searches are rarely done.

But I think you might want to consider that the odds really are of having to deal with this, while not quite sub-atomic, are pretty damn small.
posted by A Terrible Llama at 1:47 PM on February 1, 2010

Best answer: And to the point of the question, I personally don't think obtaining any information that is in the public record violates anyone's reasonable privacy.
posted by Ashley801 at 1:47 PM on February 1, 2010

A lot of states have nice Web sites where you can see what convicted sex offenders live in your neighborhood. But I would say you shouldn’t bother looking unless you have some evidence your super might be dangerous. It’s not a common problem.
posted by thelastenglishmajor at 1:51 PM on February 1, 2010

New York state criminal records searches cost $55, though the state's sex offender registry is free to search. If you were in PA you search anybody's criminal history for free. PA has a great system, super fast docket updates and searchable cases going back more than 30 years. I use it for work and for fun!
posted by The Straightener at 1:51 PM on February 1, 2010

Response by poster: Okay, I guess that's true -- any information I'm really looking for is public record. It's not like I need their credit history. Although I foresee problems with people who don't necessarily live in the building, whose addresses I don't know. But anyway:

So let's say I'm looking to move into a building -- As we approach lease-signing, I ask for the name of the super and whoever else would have keys to my apartment and then just search on my own.

Would that set off a red-flag to my potential landlord that I'm a potential crazy? How would I ask without saying why I want the names? Or should I just say?
posted by thebazilist at 2:01 PM on February 1, 2010

when you go searching through the sex offenders records - be careful - the listings are written up in legal-speak and they may give impressions that aren't true.
posted by nadawi at 2:01 PM on February 1, 2010

if this a big concern to you - ask your landlord if they perform background checks on people who are given keys to your apartment. if they say no or treat you like you're crazy, find another place to live.
posted by nadawi at 2:08 PM on February 1, 2010 [1 favorite]

FWIW, you can't just "do a background check" on someone. You need consent.

LOL. That's obviously not the case. In a lot of states you can look up someone's criminal record for free. And the whole point of sex offender databases is to be public.
posted by delmoi at 2:55 PM on February 1, 2010 [1 favorite] does what it says on the tin. For free.
posted by availablelight at 3:32 PM on February 1, 2010

Best answer: It shouldn't be weird to ask about the super prior to lease-signing... for lots of people, they want the super on-premises, so asking who he is and where he lives is normal enough. You can also ask the building residents -- when we were looking at places, we always asked residents about the super to find out if they ever go days without hot water or have constantly broken washers or elevators, etc. From there, you can do your searching online for extra info, if it's out there.
posted by xo at 4:56 PM on February 1, 2010

availablelight: " does what it says on the tin. For free."

I just looked up 2 people that I know have criminal records on that site and nothing came up. I then went to my local Sheriff's website and looked up the name of a couple of sex offenders, and still no records came up on criminalsearches.
posted by IndigoRain at 10:21 PM on February 1, 2010

Response by poster: Thanks, hypothetical-and-unlikely crisis averted! (And fears assuaged.)

And I looked at, too, and nothing came up for anybody, including the guy in that article. But I do remember another site from a while ago that did something similar, but actually worked, as in pulled up traffic violations. I'll have to find that and maybe post it back here if I do.
posted by thebazilist at 5:48 PM on February 2, 2010

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