Are you in the market for an apartment? Make sure to be prepared when you’re getting ready to fill out rental applications. Often, a potential landlord will ask for permission to run a tenant background check.
The word “background check” can be scary. The tenant spends hours, days even, wondering what will surface. A parking ticket from college days? An ex’s misuse of your credit card? A bad grade from middle school? What exactly is on a tenant background check, and why does a landlord need it?
There are a number of reasons that a landlord would want a background check. The biggest reason is safety. Your renter may have been burned before or have small children in the house. They’re likely just looking for a tenant who has never been evicted before and has a reputable rental history.
A standard tenant background check includes:
A background check will show your past addresses, as well as your rental history.
Depending on which background check service the renter uses, it may also reveal persistently late rent payments and notices of eviction. Your rental history is the most important piece of information for the landlord.
If you have red flags with your rental, be prepared with an explanation. Letting the renter know before they run a background check is a good plan. Being honest about a past faux-pas may save you the fee of the background check (often the applicant has to pay for the records check.) While this won’t guarantee you’ll get the apartment, lying and the issue being found after the fact pretty much guarantees that you won’t.
A credit check is not always part of a standard tenant screening, but it’s likely that if the landlord requires a background check, they’ll want to access your credit as well. The landlord is required, under the Fair Credit Reporting Act, to get written permission from a potential tenant before running a credit report. Then, there should be no questions on whether he/she is going to run your credit.
Your work history will show what companies you have worked for and for how long, as well as job titles, employment dates, and salary earned. A strong and stable work history will work in your favor. On the other end of the spectrum, some landlords may see frequent job changes, inconsistent employment, or salary as deterrents.
A criminal record check is typically part of a standard background check. Depending on where your potential landlord’s priorities lie, it could be the most important. Someone with small children in their house likely doesn’t want a convicted criminal living in their basement. A criminal background check will reveal crimes you have been convicted of. Keep in mind that depending on how deep the landlord digs, arrest records and pending cases could be uncovered. If you know any of these will show up in your criminal background check, it’s suggested that you explain to the renter first.
Every landlord is different. Some just want to know that you can afford the rent, others want you to have an outstanding credit history and high salary. A small percentage of landlords may take you on your word. Whatever your case turns out to be, being prepared before you go apartment hunting is your best defense. Check your own background at Kiwi Searches to see what your next landlord might uncover.