How to Screen a Tenant Who Does Not Have a Social Security Number

Landlords to Take a Different Tact with Tenant Screening Without a Social Security Number

California palmsSome states, such as California, prohibit a landlord from inquiring about a tenant’s or prospective tenant’s immigration status or citizenship and requiring proof of legal residency or citizenship as a prerequisite to renting. Kim LaVielle, Area Manager with PPM, a national property management firm which oversees roughly 10,000 units, reports that her company’s policy of requiring credit checks as a condition to renting was challenged in Northern California.



“We had a prospective tenant who did not have a social security number, which we needed for our typical background check. When we rejected the prospect, we were then contacted by the Northern California Legal Aid office, and threatened with legal action on the grounds we were discriminating under this new law.”

While this new bill, AB 976, does not prohibit a landlord from requiring documentation necessary to verify a prospective tenant’s identity or financial qualifications to rent, it may be necessary for a landlord to find other ways to screen a prospect who has no credit.

“In our case, we decided to screen using personal references, and independent income verification. But we have to look at our screening practices differently now.” Ms. LaVielle predicts this legal precedent will flow to other states as well. “PPM is updating its official Tenant Selection Criteria so we have a process to handle these cases effectively.”

Identity photoAccording to a spokesperson for a national screening company, a social security number is not mandatory for a credit check. You can order a credit report with a name and address. However, as in Ms. LaVielle’s case, when the prospect does not have a social security number, you are highly likely to get a “no hit” or “no report available” response. Before a person is noted by the credit bureaus, a file has to be created. The landlord’s act of requesting a report may be the very thing that initiates this person’s credit history. Still, ordering a tenant credit check may be worth a try to see what information might have been reported earlier.

Other Reports Available

  • A tenant background checks does not require a social security number. A full name and date of birth are crucial for determining if you have the right information.
  • Eviction reports are available without a social security number.
  • Unfortunately, you cannot receive a PATH report, the address history, which could create a hardship when cross-checking criminal and eviction reports. There is no doubt that a social security number is an important identifier when weeding out duplicate names.

Professional Property Management (PPM), is a national property management service, with over 450 experienced professionals serving over 150 cities in ten states.

American Apartment Owners Association offers discounts on products and services related to your commercial housing investment, including tenant debt collection, tenant background checks, insurance and financing. Find out more at