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The Down Low on Background Checks – for tenants AND landlords

Background checks can be annoying or anxiety producing for both tenants and landlords, despite the fact that they are an essential step in any real estate transaction.

In this article, we’ve outlined our top 5 tips for tenants (what to be aware of when submitting your background check) and for landlords (what red flags to look for when choosing a tenant).

Landlords: You want to rest assured your tenant is responsible, will pay rent on time, and that the state of your investment is safe.

  1. Evictions – If the prospect tenant has been evicted, you definitely want to examine this more closely. Talk to the tenant and request more information.

  2. Criminal records – Mindfully discern between what time of conviction you’re looking at. Was it a youthful indiscretion, pattern based or a serious crime?

  3. Public records – If a tenant is in legal proceeding it will pop up in a background check. Look for unpaid rent charges, unpaid child support or any other proceedings pointing to difficulty meeting financial responsibilities.

  4. Get a detailed profile – A background check can often be flushed out by talking with the tenant’s previous landlord. Ask questions like: Does the tenant owe you any outstanding debt? Did the tenant qualify to receive his or her security deposit when moving out? Would you rent to this tenant in the future?

  5. Create an even playing field – Require the same level of screening reports from all applicants.

Tenants: Worried that events in your past will be misrepresented in a background check? Be aware of these trip wires and be proactive in talking with your landlord if you think your background check will hit any of these.

  1. Honesty is the best policy – Always tell the truth. It’s better to have total transparency and get out in front of any red flags, instead of the landlord uncovering them later.

  2. Web footprints – Do a search of your name online. Scan through what you’ve written online and/or other social media posts.

  3. Criminal records – If you have been arrested, check that the court record is correct and has been updated. If you believe your record to be expunged, or reduced to a misdemeanor, check with the clerk of the court, to verify your records.

  4. Civil court records – If you’ve been involved in a lawsuit, check with the clerk of the court, to make sure the records are correct.

  5. Credit report – Get a copy of your report and verify that it looks accurate.

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