How Do You Perform A Tenant Background Check?

How do you perform a tenant background check? Many credit bureaus offer both credit reports and criminal background checks to property managers who are assessing prospective tenants. As a landlord, you have...

As a landlord, you have the option or researching public records, court documents and consumer reports to find out more about the background about a prospective tenant. Gary Knippa, a property management company owner in Austin, TX with over 30 years of experience in the real estate business says that "the first [step in performing a tenant background check] should be [to take a look at their] credit report, but it is possible to pull up a criminal report and the credit bureau can do that for an additional charge. So that is really the extent of what you can do legally."

Consumer and credit reports can give you information regarding an applicant's credit and rental history. Court documents and public records can show you if the applicant has been evicted or sued before, or if they have been convicted of a felony. "Typically a DWI or other misdemeanor will not disqualify you, nor do those actually show up. But a felony, any time spent in incarceration or drug offenses that led to a conviction can be grounds to disqualify you. Of course any sex offender would be disqualified. Those don't come up very often, but that would be another reason to turn somebody down," Knippa says. Many states allow landlords and property management companies to turn down a person's rental application if they are a felon, a sex offender or if they have a prior drug conviction.

As a part of the background check, you should also contact their employer to verify their employment, check their references and call their previous landlords to find out what kind of tenant they are. It is also important to ask for a valid photo ID from the applicant in order to verify that they are who they say they are. You want to be able to verify everything that has been stated in the prospective tenant's application. If you are not able to verify what the applicant has wrote on their application, ask for additional information from the applicant before making a decision. When checking a person's credit information, you must adhere to the standards of the Fair Credit Reporting Act, which requires landlords to let applicants know in advance that their credit will be checked, obtain written permission from the applicant to view his or her report, to not share the results with uninvolved third parties and to notify the applicant in writing if their application was denied because of a poor credit rating.

If you are new to being a landlord and need some help with screening rental applications, there are many places you can go to and get some assistance. Your local apartment or landlord association can give you some pointers on what you should look for in a tenant and how to perform a proper screening and background check. They also can help you with other landlord-tenant issues that may come up. You can also hire a property management company to take care of the tenant screening process.

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