Before accepting any adult resident into your rental property, you need to perform a tenant background check. This important tool will reveal what you need to know about the tenant and his or her safety for your property. A renter background check provides a comprehensive look at the applicant, including everything from rental history to criminal history. If you do not perform a background check on tenants, you are putting your rental property, and any other tenants who share that property, at risk.

How to Use Background Checks for Landlords

A tenant screening background check should be an automatic part of your application process. Whether you accept applications online or in person, you must require that the applicant fills out the information that allows you to perform the background check. Remember, this important piece of the application process is vital to helping you protect your rental properties and the tenants who are entrusting you to give them a safe place to live.

While there is a cost for a background check for tenants, you can pass that cost on to your tenant in most states.

To initiate the background request, all you need to do is provide the renter’s name and email address to a company that does background checks. The tenant’s information will then be run through national databases, from the sex offender registry to the national terrorist watch list and county criminal search. You’ll be able to view basic details of any matching records, and can draw your own conclusions, to do what is best for your property.

The background check will display your potential tenant’s work and rental history. All of this information gives you the knowledge needed to make an informed decision about the worthiness of the applicant, and protect you from making a mistake simply because you want to have a tenant in place to avoid a vacancy.

What to Look For on a Background Check

As a landlord, it is your duty to provide a safe place for renters to live. If you have a multifamily property, your renters are counting on you to vet potential tenants carefully, for their own safety. Thus, it’s important that you evaluate any criminal charges that show up on tenant background checks. Any arrest record should be a red flag; however, the decision of whether to allow or deny the applicant rests with you.

Take into consideration the weight of the charge and the date of the incident. To protect yourself, write down criteria for renters. You may decide that you’ll overlook criminal acts that happened 10 or more years ago, or that you’ll rent to someone with a misdemeanor record but not a felony. The choice is up to you.

Sex offenders are not protected under the Fair Housing Act, so any landlord can decide to not rent an apartment to a registered sex offender and face no legal retribution. Some landlords enjoy helping troubled individuals get back on their feet, and may find it worthwhile to help someone who has served time for sex crimes rehabilitate into society. If you spot a sex offender charge on a tenant background check, ask more questions to understand the bigger picture, including what may be at stake for your renters.

The other information on the background check will help you determine whether a renter is a high or low risk to your property. An individual with a spotty work history could be a red flag, since a tenant who loses a job may be unable to pay the rent on time. Likewise, someone whose rental history shows frequent moves could be a liability.

If tenant background checks indicate that a renter has changed jobs or moved frequently, consider asking more questions to find out why. There are many legitimate reasons for someone to change jobs or move. Relationships might end, someone may move for work, or an applicant could have fallen on hard times or made poor decisions for a period of time.

With any of these red flags, landlords have leeway in determining what to do. You may be stricter about tenants at multifamily units where community safety is at stake, while giving someone a second chance if you own a single-family home. The main purpose of tenant background checks is to provide landlords with information they need to make informed decisions about their properties.

Failing to Perform a Background Check for Renters Could Have Devastating Consequences

If you are a seasoned landlord, you will likely have potential tenants who wish to forgo the background check. They will often have excellent reasons for this, especially if you are going to pass the cost on to them. However, failing to do so could have costly consequences.

Consider these potential problems:

  • A tenant who has a poor past rental history and many evictions is probably going to turn into a nightmare tenant who does not pay rent and who damages the property.
  • A tenant who is a registered sex offender could put you at risk for a lawsuit if your property is near a school, park or other area that children frequent.
  • A tenant with a violent criminal history who harms someone else at your property could lead to a lawsuit and all the fees associated with that when the injured party takes you to court.

As you can see, the potential costs of a bad tenant are extensive. A tenant background search will save you from many of these potential instances. Trust the American Apartment Owners Association to provide you with your renter background checks for landlords. Purchase our basic background check today, or click here to see our comprehensive apartment background check packages, and choose the one that is the most helpful to your screening needs.

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The information provided herein is for advisory purposes only and AAOA takes no responsibility for its accuracy. AAOA recommends you consult with an attorney familiar with current federal, state and local laws.