What is a Tenant Background Check?

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  • Written By: wiseGEEK Writer
  • Edited By: O. Wallace
  • Last Modified Date: 07 October 2019
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A tenant background check may be simple or elaborate depending upon the needs and previous experiences of the landlord. Most landlords want to ascertain that new tenants will follow any rules set for rental, will not pose risks to property through their behavior, and will be able to pay their rent in a timely fashion. Sometimes landlords already know this about renters and will rent to them without performing a tenant background check.

When a landlord is working with someone he doesn’t know, it may be easier to check information about the renter's history. Most often, the tenant background check may simply consist of verifying employment status, checking with previous landlords, and running a credit check. Landlords must usually seek permission to speak with employers or prior landlords and they also must have written permission to access a person’s personal credit report. Frequently, perspective tenants will pay the fee to check credit, so they’re well aware that credit rating is one potential consideration.


Sometimes a tenant background check can be considerably more elaborate. Landlords can look for criminal history, though this is difficult to do unless the landlord knows all the places the person has previously resided. It is possible to search public court records in most countries to find evidence of crimes committed, but this can be a time consuming process. Unless the property rented is of extremely high value, a tenant background check that includes research into criminal history is relatively rare.

Some landlords assign a property company to perform background checks. Though not part of true “background” landlords or property companies may make observations and judgments about perspective renters. They might note things like type of vehicles driven, demeanor or behavior of applicants, and any statements that appear inconsistent. Not all property companies spend much time speaking with perspective renters, and some just ask for rental applications and permission to run a credit check.

Applications for properties go a long way in helping to perform a tenant background check. They give information about the renter’s behavior to previous landlords, can help determine if a tenant smokes, and usually lists the names and ages of all occupants of the property. Names of employers and previous landlords are usually provided by the perspective tenant, which can help check basic facts. Landlords may require a little more information, like bank statements if a person is not employed or is self-employed.


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