Landlord Guide: How to Get a Free Rental Background Check

Rental background checks are a great tool for landlords. These caches of information give you a few essential pieces of information that can help you make a decision about which potential tenant is going to be the best fit for your business and your property.

Finding a free rental background check form that gives you the necessary information, however, can be hard. Each check gives different information depending on what site it was obtained from and what information was requested, so not all free rental history background check reports are created equal.

As a landlord, what type of rental background check should you be looking for? Today, we’ll run through the pros and cons of using a free service versus a paid service. With that information, you will be able to determine which type of credit check will make the most sense for your current needs.

A Table Of Contents For Free Tenant Background Checks

What’s In A Background Check?

What’s In A Background Check?

The terminology used to refer to tenant background checks is often confusing due to the dual meaning of many words. To clarify what we are covering today, let’s touch on what is typically included in a background check.

A credit check, sometimes referred to as a credit report, is a more limited screening type that focuses on the financial details of a prospective tenant. It may include some or all of the following:

  • Court financial records
  • Minimum payment amounts on debt accounts
  • Late payment history
  • Credit scores
  • Credit history
  • Current and past loans

Specific credit reports will each show a different set of information depending on who is providing the report and what information is requested.

Background checks are less limited than credit checks; they often include more broad areas that can be used as indicators of a tenant’s trustworthiness in more than just financials. As with credit checks, the information included in a background check is going to depend on where the information is gathered from.

The comprehensive background check provided on RentPrep may include all of the following:

  • Credit score
  • Address and employment history
  • Collections and tradelines
  • Credit inquiries
  • Public records
  • Eviction records
  • Criminal records
  • Name AKAs
  • Consumer statements (where allowed)

With all of this information, it becomes easier to get a picture of what type of tenant you are considering. A full picture makes the final decision simple, and you’ll be left with the best possible tenants.

How To Run A Free Rental Background Check

A free rental background check would give landlords information that they need about a tenant to make a verified and certain decision about potential tenants, but figuring out the right way to run this type of check can be difficult.

Have The Tenant Pay

One way to run this type of check for free is to use a service that allows the tenant to pay for the credit check rather than you. It is legal to do this, and there are many service options that permit you to have the tenant login and pay for the background check themselves.

Data Mining

If you don’t want any money to need to be exchanged in order to get the background check, you will need to take a more active approach to research the information you need about each tenant.

Most of the information included in background checks is public information, but landlords typically pay a service to gather that information for them. With enough time and focus, you can gather the information on your own.

Here are some examples of information you would want to check and how you could go about doing that:

  • Address history: check local court documents, voting registration, and with previous landlords
  • Employment history: call all employment references
  • Civil and criminal cases: check public records with courthouses at the local, state, and national level

As you can see, gathering up all of this information on your own is sure to be a very time-consuming process. That is not to say it is impossible to get a background check accomplished for free, but there is a definitive difference in the time investment between free and paid reports.

Pros And Cons Of Free Tenant Credit Check Services

As you can see in our complete review of the best background check services, most of these services cost something in order to get a comprehensive look at each tenant. Some information that is often included in a thorough background check cannot be obtained for free, and that is why free checks are not as comprehensive.

Still, there are both pros and cons to doing a free background check.


  • Inexpensive
  • Simple
  • Can easily be customized for your specific needs
  • Focus on the factors that matter most to you


  • Time-consuming
  • Doesn’t give all the details
  • Less reliable

Free Isn’t Always The Right Answer

Free Isn’t Always The Right Answer

While getting a free tenant credit check or background check can seem like the most important thing when you are trying to make as much money as possible, you can save yourself time and even money by investing in the right tenant screening service instead of trying to do it on your own.

Qualified and well-vetted tenant screening services like the services we offer here at RentPrep are designed with landlords like you in mind. The hassle of doing this research on your own takes time away from other projects. Tenant screening is important to get right, and that is why it may be worth it to invest in a high-quality service like RentPrep.

Tenant-Backed Checks

If finances are a huge factor in your business at this point, however, consider using a service that allows the tenant to pay for the screening. This gives serious tenants the opportunity to put in an application that will give you proper background information, but it doesn’t take away from your profit margin.

Free Background Check For Rental Property FAQs

How Do I Do A Free Background Check On Tenants?

Free rental background check forms are not readily available online due to the cost of running some aspects of the check. There are some rental-management services that will include free background checks as part of their package, but the service itself often costs money.

Another common way to get a background check that is free to the landlord is to have the tenant pay for the service. While this is legal, it may be a deterrent to some tenants that are not willing to cover the cost of the service, thus limiting your selection pool.

Finally, you can do a free background check by researching all of the necessary information yourself, but this can be very time-consuming and stressful.

What Is The Best Tenant Background Check?

According to the results of our comprehensive review, the best background check for rental property owners and prospective tenants at this time is RentPrep because of the variety of services and high-quality customer service that we offer.

If you are looking for some other options, take a closer look here to discover what will work best for your business.

Who Pays For Background Check: Tenant Or Landlord?

When trying to get a free rental history background check, most sites will have an option to charge tenants rather than landlords. Ultimately, there isn’t a specific answer about who has to pay for the background check. Who pays for the check is based on the landlord’s discretion, but it is not uncommon for tenants to need to pay for their own background checks.

What Background Checks Do Landlords Use?

While it would be nice if there was one free background check for rental application prospects to investigate, there is not a singular service that is used by landlords to run background checks. Because of the wide variety of services and resulting services available to run background checks, every landlord is likely to have their own preference.

That being said, each site is going to come back with very similar data; the main difference usually lies in what is included at a specific price point. If you are curious about what a landlord might see about you, choose whichever service fits your budget and run a check on yourself!

Additionally, landlords may need to disclose any reports run about you. Ask for a copy of the report if this applies to you.


While free rental background checks are not a simple solution for most landlords, there are many ways to get background checks so the investment is proportional to the outcome. Many services require some type of payment, but the information that results from these complete services is often worth far more than what it cost.

Remember how important it is to use reliable information when choosing tenants. Great tenants can make or break the success of a rental property, so choose wisely!