How to Complete a Tenant Background Check

By Sam Feeder , last updated December 22, 2011

There are a variety of different ways to complete a tenant background check if you are a landlord and are renting out apartments, homes, or office space to people you do not know personally. These background checks are integral to running a property rental operation, as you will want to check up on credit for each of your tenants to enure they will pay you the rent at the end of every month, check up on their criminal history to make sure they are not wanted by the law or are violent individuals, and check up that they are who they say they are. Some of the ways to screen tenants through background checks are listed below.

Meet Tenant and Get Information

The first thing you need to do to complete a tenant background check is meet the tenant in person and get a first impression of who they are. Those first moments you meet them says a lot about who they are and how they hold themselves. This doesn't necessarily mean they will be bad tenants but it will give you a lot of information that you can't write down or find through financial history. Then you will need them to fill out a rental application in it's entirety. This will entail their full personal info, from social security number to past addresses to contact numbers for landlords to work history and average income. Many landlords also charge applicants the fee it costs to check their credit history, which is around twenty-five dollars. If they don't fill out any of the application or refuse or can't pay this basic fee then that is also a red flag about the tenant.

Get Credit Information

Pay the basic fee to do a credit check on the applicant to see how their credit history and credit score looks. There will be three different credit scores which will reflect the entire credit history of someone as well as a written out credit history as to what money they owe on specific things and what date they last paid it or when they opened the account. Even if there are some minor problems on the credit report, many tenants will still pay their rent, especially if they are signing a lease.

Do Personal Background Check

Spend a little of the money they paid for the credit check to make sure this person doesn't have a criminal record if you believe this to be necessary. Check sex offender websites and the National Trace Detail for all criminal history information which will tell every detail of a person's police record if they have one, even times they were wrongly arrested and the charges were dropped. This is all public information, though you will have to pay for access to it through a basic membership fee, but check it if it will make you feel more comfortable.

Call References

Call past references to see if they liked the applicant as a tenant and will vouch for them. While a bitter landlord will often try and poison the well and shouldn't be taken too seriously, two or three bitter landlords is definitely a telling sign.

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