CHARLESTON, SC (WCSC) - With the shaky housing market, many Americans have traded buying a home for renting an apartment.
In most cases, tenants are required to hand over personal information to rental companies before they move into a complex, but a Live 5 Special Investigation reveals the law isn't doing much to keep your sensitive documents safe.
Pictures taken in July show boxes of old leasing agreements from Cypress Cove Apartments in West Ashley tossed outside the complex's storage unit area.
"This is horrific to me," said one of the complex's tenants who snapped the photos and contacted Live 5 about the discovery.
The papers, which were discovered this past July, were full of social security numbers, credit reports, W-2 forms, addresses and phone numbers from previous residents. According to law enforcement officials, this is an identity thief's dream come true.
"They can clean out bank accounts," said Cpl. Fred Bowie of the Charleston Police Department. "They can get these phony ID cards made up. They can get phony credit cards made up, charge a lot to your account and the bad thing about it is you really don't know it's going on until you get your bank statement."
"It's very troublesome," said the tenant. "We want these people protected, these are past residents that lived here on this property."
According to a spokesperson for Colonial Properties Trust, the owner of Cypress Cove Apartments, the boxes were left out by mistake.
"A resident leased a unit not knowing what the boxes were, placed the boxes outside the unit so they could store their goods," said Jim Spahn with Colonial Properties Trust.
A police report filed by the complex's management shows that residents then told the apartment staff movers to put the boxes in a trash pile. The files stayed there for four days until another tenant sounded the warning bell.
"A resident notified the apartment complex at five, and they put them in safe storage by 6 p.m.," said Spahn.
What is considered "safe storage" for leasing agreements? According to the South Carolina Department of Consumer Affairs, there is not any standard for apartment complexes statewide.
Additionally, when renters move out of an apartment complex, they can't get their personal information back immediately. Under current law, complexes must keep leasing agreements on file for at least five years.
A spokesperson for Colonial Properties Trust tell us to their knowledge no information was compromised.
The boxes were found exposed in July and since then a spokesperson for the complex says to their knowledge, no information was compromised. The complex has contacted all the former residents that were impacted and offered them a year of free credit monitoring.