How to Carry Out a Tenant Background Check: A Quick Guide

How to Carry Out a Tenant Background Check: A Quick Guide

If you’re just starting out as a landlord, you might find yourself concerned about getting good people into your properties, especially since vacancy rates in D.C. are higher than the national average. Late rent payments, property damage, and a list of excuses are just a few headaches you might end up with if you don’t screen prospective tenants well.

A standard part of your screening process should be to run a tenant background check on every applicant. This is just one way of identifying potential red flags and finding the best renter for your property. But there’s more to it than just filling out a form and getting a report.

Let’s take a look at some tenant background check tips and how to screen tenants to get the best renters.

Gather the Information

Your starting point should be a rental application, which makes it easy to get all the necessary information to run a background check. The application should get personal information, residential history, and employment history at a minimum.

Running the check will cost you, so plan to either absorb that cost or pass the fee on to the applicant. An application fee can help you spend your time on only serious prospects as well.

Part of the application should be consent forms to run the background check and a credit check. The Fair Credit Report Act requires that you get permission for the credit check, and you can deny a tenant if they refuse to give you the go-ahead. This is definitely one of the tenant background check advantages, in that you can weed out difficult tenants in advance.

What to Check

One of the best tenant background check benefits is that a check done by a reputable agency should give you all the information you need to assess a potential tenant. This should include the following:

  • Eviction history
  • Criminal records
  • Public records
  • Verification of identity
  • Government watch list status

The credit report is a separate check that tells you about any foreclosures, bankruptcies, and evictions. You can set a minimum credit score as part of your screening process, since it can be a good indicator of financial stability.

How to Assess

You should establish screening criteria before you even market your property. It’s an essential part of managing rental properties, and makes it easier to assess the data a check pulls up.

Assessing a report can involve some hard and fast standards, but you might find it more of a balancing act. Previous rental history will tell you a lot about the kind of tenant you’re getting, often more than any other piece of information. As a result, you might be willing to accept a lower credit score from an applicant with a solid rental background.

Need a Tenant Background Check?

Ensuring you have solid tenants in your properties makes your life so much easier as a landlord. You should have a process in place that covers all your legal bases, like getting permission to run the tenant background check and selection criteria that don’t discriminate.

If you need help with anything in this tenant background check guide, contact us to learn more about our property management services, which include running checks on all applicants.

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