Thinking of renting some space? Expect to be background checked when applying for a rental. Renting a place nowadays is not a simple matter of having the dough on hand, an amiable personality, and some documents attesting to your credit worthiness. Because of easy access to digital information, landlords now have the power to check who you are. This means they now have a way of verifying your personal information, from basic details like previous address and employment down to criminal and eviction records.
The Need for Background Checks
Put yourself in your potential landlord’s shoes. Wouldn’t you want to know with whom you’re dealing with? What if you’re renting a home to someone who’s had a history of avoiding rent payments for months? Or what if you’re handing your apartment over to a convicted felon with an angelic face? You never know just by meeting people; but, you can be sure of them with a thorough background search.
What Landlords Want to Know About You
Essentially, what a lessor wants to know are the answers to these questions before he trustfully hands over his keys:
- Can this would-be tenant afford to make the monthly rental payments?
- Will this tenant give me headaches regarding rent payments? Is the tenant responsible enough to pay in full and on time?
- Will this tenant take care of my property?
- Has this tenant ever been evicted? If so, why?
- Does this tenant have a criminal past?
Is an Address History Lookup & Background Search Legal?
Yes, it is. A landlord has the right to conduct such background searches and address history lookups before entering into a legal contract with you. They may conduct their checks in many various ways such as hiring an investigative agency or doing their own online searches through public records and even social media networks.
As a potential tenant, it would be good to know exactly what a lessor would conduct a search on. If there are some blemishes on your record, you would know what documents or proof to prepare to smooth over those spots.
What Does an Address History Lookup & Background Search Entail?
Not all landlords will opt for a background search or address history lookup, but if they do, and charge tenant screening fees for it, they will need to get your written permission. Depending on what your landlord wants to lookup, the screening process may include background searches on your:
A BGS will uncover whether you have been a good rent payer, one who doesn’t chronically pay late or underpay when rent becomes due. This will also show whether you have had an eviction issue. Checks with your previous landlords may also tell whether you have left rented property in good condition or at least in the same condition as when you moved in.
If you think you may have some problem here, be honest about problems you have had with your previous landlords. Perhaps you had been a few months behind your payments because of a sudden lay-off. Provide documentation, if possible, to show a good paying record before the unfortunate incident as well as documentation to show steady employment and income at present. Immediately resolving background check issues will make the landlord less worried about your credentials.
Credit and Financial History
Your financial shape is the first thing a landlord needs to assess. Although lessors will not be able to see your credit score, they will be able to see your loans, bankruptcy, and payment history. If you’re behind or punctual in paying your utility bills, for instance, this will form your landlord’s opinion on how you will be treating the monthly rental bills.
With this in mind, check your credit report before applying as a tenant. Check yourself at this site, AnnualCreditReport.com, to fix any errors before anyone sees it. If you do have debt restructuring going on, presenting documentation up front may improve your credit worthiness and personal credibility to your landlord.
Employment History and Proof of Income
Your financial shape also includes your ability to pay, attested by your present salary and other side income. Keeping a high-salaried job for years is a huge plus and may even outweigh some little “uh ohs” they may find in their background searches. A high salary means good capacity to pay and years in the job points to your stability and sense of responsibility.
Landlords may ask your previous lessors if you have been evicted or will look at court records for an eviction case against you. To show your integrity, be up front about positively resolved cases before it comes up in a background check. Again, show proof.
A background search will go through county and state criminal files for any records. If you were charged by a crime but never convicted of it, show proof of the false accusation so that the landlord may change his opinion of you.
A Tenant Applicant’s Rights
Applying for a rental gives your potential lessor the right to do a background search on you. As an applicant, you also have certain rights which vary from state to state. The Fair Housing Act, however, covers all states and forbids landlords to discriminate on whom to rent out to on the basis of religion, color, race, gender, disability, sexual orientation, pregnancy, marital status, and national origin.
In some states, landlords may be required to provide a written notice when denying a tenant’s application. The notice must cite specific reasons and also the particular background information that led to the denial.
Applying to rent a home may be synonymous to applying for a job. The person receiving your application will more often than not require a background check. It is therefore important that you emphasize what you can offer your landlord as a tenant and be very honest about a negative past, if any. This way, a potential landlord may be swayed toward positive consideration by his perception of your integrity.