How to Perform Background Checks for Rentals

Rental property success starts with choosing the right tenants. But how can landlords identify trustworthy and reliable renters? The answer lies in conducting comprehensive background checks for rentals. In this blog post, we will explore the importance of tenant background checks, their essential components, and the steps involved in conducting them, ensuring you make informed decisions for your rental property business.

Short Summary

  • Tenant background checks are essential for landlords to identify trustworthy tenants and protect their rental business.
  • A comprehensive tenant background check should include a credit report, criminal history check, eviction records search, written consent from the applicant & more.
  • Landlords must adhere to legal considerations & use reliable services/credit reporting agencies to streamline the screening process while making informed decisions on prospective tenants.

Understanding the Importance of Tenant Background Checks


Tenant background checks are crucial for identifying trustworthy tenants, preventing rental scams, and ensuring a profitable rental business. By evaluating a prospective tenant’s credit report, criminal history, and eviction records, landlords can make informed decisions about who they allow to rent their properties.

Reviewing an applicant’s rental payment history, for instance, can provide landlords with insight into the likelihood of the applicant paying rent on time. Similarly, a comprehensive tenant background check helps in deterring rental fraud and maintaining a successful rental business. In short, tenant background checks are an essential tool in a landlord’s arsenal.

Essential Components of a Rental Background Check

house, home ownership, domestic

A comprehensive rental background check should consist of three main components: a credit report and score, criminal history check, and eviction records search. Each of these components plays a vital role in providing landlords with the necessary information to make informed decisions about prospective tenants. By conducting rental background checks, landlords can ensure they are selecting the most qualified and reliable tenants for their properties.

By conducting a thorough background check, landlords can gain insight into a tenant’s financial stability, criminal history, and criminal history.

Credit Report and Score

Credit reports and scores offer insight into a tenant’s financial stability and payment history. Assessing an applicant’s credit report can assist landlords in gaining insight into the applicant’s financial conduct and enable them to make a more informed leasing decision.

Various resources are available for landlords to evaluate a tenant’s financial stability. For instance, SmartMove Income Insights is an effective tool that can estimate an applicant’s income quickly. Such resources can help landlords make informed decisions about the financial reliability of prospective tenants.

Criminal History Check

A criminal history check provides details of any prior criminal convictions, which can be used by landlords to evaluate the potential risk of renting to a specific applicant. Criminal background checks are essential to guarantee safety and minimize landlord liability.

It’s important to note that some areas have laws restricting landlords from asking prospective tenants about arrest or conviction records, such as Oakland and Berkeley, California. Landlords should always be aware of local laws and regulations when conducting criminal history checks.

Eviction Records Search

An eviction records search offers landlords an insight into an applicant’s rental history, aiding them in assessing the likelihood of the applicant paying rent punctually and adhering to the terms of the lease. By uncovering any previous evictions, landlords can better predict a tenant’s future behavior as a renter.

Eviction records searches involve accessing court records either through state or county websites or by visiting the courthouse in person. This information can be invaluable in helping landlords make informed decisions about prospective renters.

Steps to Conduct a Tenant Background Check

give, key, receive

Conducting a tenant background check involves obtaining written consent, collecting necessary information, and choosing a reliable screening service for a thorough tenant background search. Following these steps ensures that landlords have the most accurate and up-to-date information about prospective tenants.

By obtaining written consent from the tenant, landlords can ensure that they are legally allowed to access the property.

Obtain Written Consent

Landlords must obtain written consent from the applicant before running a background check, as required by the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA). Failing to secure written consent from the applicant prior to conducting a background check could result in fines and other disciplinary measures.

To ensure compliance with the FCRA, landlords can include written consent as part of the rental application process. By providing a written disclosure outlining the purpose of the background check and obtaining the applicant’s signature, landlords can protect themselves from potential legal issues.

Collect Necessary Information

Collecting comprehensive rental application information is crucial for conducting a thorough tenant background check. Necessary information typically includes:

  • The applicant’s full name
  • Date of birth
  • Social security number
  • Current and previous addresses
  • Employment history
  • Income verification
  • References

Landlords should verify the collected data by reaching out to the applicant’s employer, landlord, and other references. This helps to ensure the accuracy of the information provided and allows landlords to make the most informed decision about a prospective renter.

Choose a Reliable Screening Service

By selecting a reputable tenant screening service that complies with federal and state laws and provides accurate, up-to-date information is crucial in the tenant background check process. A reliable screening service is one that provides accurate and comprehensive background checks, including checks on credit, income, rental history, eviction history, and criminal records to ensure quality assurance.

Examples of reliable screening services include First Advantage and E-Renter’s Basic plan, which costs $21.95. By choosing a dependable screening service, landlords can have confidence in the information provided and make the best decision for their rental property.

Analyzing the Results of a Tenant Background Check


Once a tenant background check is completed, landlords should analyze the results to determine the applicant’s suitability as a renter. This involves evaluating the applicant’s:

  • Credit history
  • Criminal history
  • Eviction history
  • Additional information gathered through reference checks and employment verification

It’s important to carefully weigh the gathered information and make a final decision based on the evaluation. By thoroughly assessing the results of a tenant background check, landlords can make informed decisions and select the most suitable tenants for their rental properties.

Legal Considerations and Compliance

legal, illegal, choose

When conducting tenant background checks, landlords must be aware of legal considerations and compliance requirements. This includes being mindful of federal and state laws, as well as tenant rights. For example, refusing to accept an application due to a potential tenant’s criminal record is considered discrimination under Fair Housing laws.

Landlords should also be aware of the potential repercussions of not adhering to tenant laws, which could include fines and other disciplinary measures. By staying informed about legal considerations and compliance requirements, landlords can protect themselves and their rental business.

Additional Methods for Tenant Screening


In addition to background checks, landlords can employ other methods for tenant screening, such as checking references and verifying employment. These additional methods can uncover data not included in a background and credit check, such as an applicant’s payment history and conduct as a renter.

By utilizing additional methods in conjunction with background checks, landlords can gain a more comprehensive understanding of prospective tenants and make more informed decisions about who they allow to rent their properties.

Tips for Streamlining the Tenant Screening Process


Streamlining the tenant screening process can save landlords time and effort while ensuring they find the best prospective tenant for their rental properties. One strategy to streamline the process is to screen prospective tenants by formalizing interactions with them and utilizing scripts when communicating with them and their references. Additionally, using a comprehensive tenant screening report can further enhance the effectiveness of the process.

Another tip is to establish explicit and uniform standards for tenant screening. This can include:

  • Conducting a preliminary interview
  • Specifying precise expectations for the rental application procedure
  • Utilizing reliable tenant screening services or credit reporting agencies

By following these strategies and implementing consistent evaluation criteria, landlords can more efficiently screen potential tenants and make informed decisions.

Landlord Responsibilities After a Tenant Background Check

confidential, secret, classified

After conducting a tenant background check, landlords should follow up with any necessary steps, such as contacting references, verifying employment, and making a final decision on the applicant’s suitability. Based on the evaluation, a decision should be made in accordance with applicable laws and tenant rights.

It is essential for landlords to maintain confidentiality and adhere to applicable regulations following a tenant background check. By staying informed and responsible, landlords can ensure a successful and compliant rental property business.


In conclusion, tenant background checks are an invaluable tool for landlords to identify trustworthy and reliable tenants, ensuring a successful rental property business. By following the steps outlined in this blog post, such as obtaining written consent, collecting necessary information, and choosing a reliable screening service, landlords can make informed decisions about prospective tenants. Remember, a thorough tenant background check is the foundation of a prosperous and compliant rental property business.

Frequently Asked Questions

What does SmartMove check?

SmartMove checks credit reports, criminal background checks, national eviction records, income estimates and its own Resident Score to provide landlords with a comprehensive tenant screening.

This comprehensive screening helps landlords make informed decisions about potential tenants. It also helps them protect their investments and ensure that they are renting to reliable tenants.

Does Keycheck affect credit score?

Keycheck offers credit reports and scores, but only uses soft-pulls to prevent impacting the tenant’s credit score. Therefore, Keycheck does not affect credit score.

How do I check my rental history on credit Karma?

To check your rental history on Credit Karma, look under the “Other Loans” section of your credit report. This will show you any Rental Kharma accounts you have.

What is a resident score?

ResidentScore assigns a score from 350-850, taking into account credit report data when determining a tenant’s score. Similar to a traditional FICO score, it is tailored for resident screening and rental history and is a better predictor of rental outcomes.

This score is designed to help landlords and property managers make more informed decisions when selecting tenants. It provides a comprehensive view of a tenant’s creditworthiness and rental history, allowing landlords to make more informed decisions.

How do I get around a background check for an apartment?

Make a good impression, use government resources, offer more, and avoid temptation to increase your chances of finding an apartment despite a background check.

Search for openings in smaller complexes and single family homes, and ask for referrals if possible.

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