Some landlords are cavalier about renting property. Either they trust the applicants that come through, or they simply don’t want to take the time to find the right tenants. In a hurry to fill a vacancy, these landlords could be setting themselves up for disaster, with a bad tenant who trashes the property or fails to pay rent. An eviction case can cost thousands of dollars, and afterwards the property may need to be rehabbed. Meanwhile, it sits vacant, and costs soon outweigh profits.

You should take the same care in checking your tenant’s background as you would if you were lending money. Because when you think about it, that’s really what you’re doing. You are loaning out one of your most valuable assets.

In the past, tenant background checks meant driving all over town and digging through dusty, old records from courthouses and government offices. There was no centralized system to storing crucial tenant information. Needless to say, information on tenants was difficult to find, and easy to miss.

Today, these reports are centralized, automated, and delivered to you in your office in real-time. In some cases, these records can encompass either state or national databases, making it harder than ever for a habitually bad tenant to continue to victimize one landlord after another.

But these reports don’t do any good if you don’t take advantage of all they are telling you. Any one individual report is useful, but it’s when comparing those reports to one another that you will find discrepancies between what the rental applicant told you, and what is really the truth.

For example, comparing a Previous Address Tenant History to a tenant credit check can show the tenant did not reveal accurate information in the rental application. Perhaps they chose to hide their whereabouts while they were out of work, incarcerated, or evicted from a previous rental. Likewise, a criminal report may explain why there is a gap in the previous address history. Also, there could be a lag time between when a current eviction shows up on an eviction report and when the bad tenant is seeking a new landlord. If you are that landlord, an eviction report alone will not protect you. But once you check credit, you’ll find the tenant in in financial crisis.

It is important that you do background checks on all adults who will be occupying your property, including adult children. That way, you will avoid the scenario where a bad tenant hides behind someone else’s rental application in order to sneak into your property. If this happens, there is no guarantee that the bad tenant won’t cause property damage, or end up the only occupant in the property.

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