Updated: November 2022
When screening tenants for a rental it’s common practice to collect address history on the rental application and then compare that to the previous addresses on the background check. Sounds simple but if your screening service is not dedicated to helping their clients stay compliant and does not have FCRA Certified Screeners compiling reports, you need to be extremely cautious with the information you receive.
It’s difficult to say if an applicant will be a good renter based purely on this data. In a perfect world, this history should match the information provided on the application, but what if it doesn’t? You can’t jump to the conclusion that you were misled and you certainly cannot deny an applicant with this information.
RentPrep is dedicated to protecting our clients which includes sharing our professional knowledge. Continue reading to learn all about an address history and why you may need to adjust your screening practices.
A table of contents for background check address history:
- What Is Address History On A Tenant Background Check?
- Where Does Previous Address History Data Come From?
- How Is Address History Used?
- How To Obtain Accurate Rental History Report
- Address History Reports & RentPrep
In theory, an address history will provide the previous addresses that your applicant has lived at along with their residency dates. This is a common misconception and unfortunately, there is not a database that can confidently provide this information.
An address history is actually an “associated” history which means there are multiple reasons why an address can appear in a history report. This information is not only limited to the places where they have rented. It will include any location they have received mail at such as their parents, college, and even a friend’s couch that they live on for a few months. As long as they received mail at the location there’s a good chance they’ll have a history at that address.
Any dates that appear with a history are also “associated” dates, not move-in/move-out dates. A “last associated” date could be recent if mail is still being received at an address they have not lived at in years.
This information typically comes from services reselling their data. Keep in mind these addresses are pulled from external sources, and therefore are not verified. For example, let’s say your applicant has had a Verizon cellphone for 10 years. Verizon knows their residence history since they need to know where to send an overdue bill to. Verizon will sell that information to databases that resell that information.
To steer clear of fair housing violations, an address history should never be used as part of the decision-making process when denying a potential tenant. This information should only be used by your screening company’s in-house researchers to investigate court records. If you use a reputable and compliant screening company, they should be using this information exclusively as an internal tool. Not seeing an address history doesn’t make the report any less valuable and if this information is purposely omitted you should feel confident that your best interest is a priority.
Step 1: Inspect The Rental Application
If a tenant applicant has a history that includes three-month and seven-month stays this could be a red flag.
The majority of leases will start with a one-year lease, so anything less than 12 months will raise an eyebrow.
This is why it’s always a good idea (early on in the tenant screening process) to ask the applicant why they’re interested in moving in the first place.
Is it because they’re moving closer to their work or is it because they’re having issues with their current landlord?
Asking good questions will help answer a lot of questions you may have.
Step 2: Make Verification Calls
Before you run a background check many landlords will make verification calls. When done properly this method provides the best rental history report and the results are safe to use as an adverse action.
There are three main calls you’ll want to make.
- Call the current employer
- Call the current landlord
- Call the previous landlord
The main purpose of these calls is to verify the information on the rental application and ask good questions.
Do the dates match, is the salary accurate and would the previous landlord rent to them again, etc.
Here you can find more information on how to make tenant verification calls.
Step 3: Run A Background Check And Compare Data
Once you run the background check you’ll want to use those report results along with the verification call results and compare it to your tenant screening criteria.
Our RentPrep Background Check will not include a visible address history report. An applicant’s address history is still part of the background check process but this information is only used as an internal tool for our Screeners when researching court records. For example, Screeners will review the addresses to determine if the applicant has lived in any states that do not share their records with the nationwide criminal databases. When someone has lived in a state like CO or NC this prompts the Screener to run a statewide search to obtain results.
TransUnion Full Credit Report, formerly known as SmartMove
We also offer TransUnion Full Credit Report, formerly known as SmartMove, because many landlords want to see the full credit score. This report comes directly from the credit bureau and is not compiled by RentPrep Screeners. Since this report is a credit report there will be some address information included but you still can’t use the information adversely.
TransUnion Full Credit Report, formerly known as SmartMove, is a credit report which means the “Reported” date is letting you know when that address was last reported to the credit bureau as being associated with the applicant. . Many times this is updated when the applicant pays their taxes or applies for credit. It is important to know this date is simply determined through association and does not determine the time of residency.
The unreliability of this data is nothing new, but the attention surrounding wrongful denial and address history has recently grown. It has never been permissible to use address history information adversely and we want to spread awareness about the importance of compliance in the rental industry. More than ever we are seeing new legislation and stricter guidelines which means more rules to follow and higher liability risk. Fortunately, keeping our clients in compliance has always been a priority for RentPrep so we are fully prepared to adapt to any of these rapid changes.