how long credit check

Updated June 2021

When you’re ready to get moving on your tenant screening process, you might be left wondering how long does a credit check take? Planning for how long it will take to screen applicants thoroughly is an integral part of the process.

If you don’t give yourself enough time to screen tenants, you might be forced to decide before you have all of the necessary information. Making decisions about who to rent to under too much pressure can lead to undesirable situations, like evictions.

Get in the know about how long credit checks take, what to expect from credit checks, and more in today’s complete landlord guide.

A Table Of Contents On How Long Credit Checks Take

What’s a credit check, and why does it matter to landlords like you? In addition to learning how long these important reports usually take to receive, spend some time learning about credit checks today.

What Is A Credit Check?

What Is A Credit Check?

A credit check, also known as a credit inquiry, is a report run by landlords to determine specific parts of an applicant’s credit history. The report may show the prospective tenant’s exact credit score, a credit score range, or another interpretation of some of the applicant’s financial history.

The type of credit score given usually depends on the tenant screening package being used by the landlord and the type of permission given by the tenant to check this information.

More detailed credit checks will give the exact FICO score. Less detailed reports will use credit scoring models to take the information in the credit report into account and generate a pass/fail score for landlords to view.

The credit check that you use as part of your credit screening criteria may vary depending on what type of unit you are renting out. Think about what type of information you need to make the best decision about whether or not to rent to a tenant.

The Benefits Of Running A Credit Check

What is so valuable about seeing the credit histories of prospective tenants?

Landlords reviewing tenant applications for the first time may have trouble differentiating between applications that don’t include the valuable information provided by a credit check. At the same time, gathering full credit reports can be confusing if you aren’t sure what the takeaway from each report should be.

Still, there are many benefits to running a credit check before approving any tenants for your rental units.

Equal Comparison Measure

When running credit checks, it is important that you run them on every single applicant rather than selectively choosing who you will run credit checks on. Only requiring credit checks for some applicants but not others can be seen as discrimination, so it is imperative to be sure you treat all applicants equally.

Additionally, it is best to keep everyone on the same level when receiving tenant applications. When you gather information in the same way on each tenant, it becomes easier to approve or deny based on what you have learned. Getting the same type of tenant screening report on each applicant as you work as a landlord will help you learn the benchmarks to use in your screening criteria.

Discover Applicant Honesty

Some applicants simply will not have good credit or they will have something in their credit history that might make you pause before renting to them.

However, tenants who are self-aware of their rough financial past are likely to be upfront about this with you. They may tell you when they first apply that they have a lower than desirable credit score or have been evicted in the past.

Whether a tenant chooses to give you this information upfront or tries to hide it from you can be a good indicator of how honest or reliable a tenant is. If they did not mention something from their credit history that you have concerns about, you could also give them a chance to explain the situation.

See Payment Habits

One of the biggest things you can learn from a credit check is whether or not the applicant has good payment habits. Prospective tenants who are financially responsible will demonstrate this in their credit history through their credit range, on-time payment history, and tradelines. Use this information to determine if they are a good match for your property.

Rental History

Finally, you can also see some information regarding the applicant’s rental history through the credit check. If they owe money to a previous landlord, this will often show up in the report. Additionally, you can cross-check past addresses to ensure that they did not intentionally leave out addresses of landlords they left hanging.

Getting a glimpse of an applicant’s past rental history is a great way to decide whether or not they are a good fit for your own rental property.

How Long Do Credit Checks Take?

A tenant screening report can take anywhere from a couple of seconds to a day, depending on the information requested and the tenant screening company used.

The most significant factor that will affect how long it takes for a screening report to come back is whether or not you are using a package that requires the tenant to log on and provide their personal information.

If so, results are dependent on when they submit this information. Once submitted, it should take about a day to see results, depending on what company you are using.

Of course, getting results back from a more straightforward score model credit check is usually much more rapid because you do not need the tenant to be involved in the process if you are not getting their exact credit score from the provider or from credit bureaus. This means you can make quicker decisions, but the information will not be as thorough.

How Long Does A Credit Check Take At RentPrep?

At RentPrep, the most common turnaround time for a tenant screening report is an hour or less for our RentPrep Background & Credit Check. This allows an FCRA Certified Screener to review the information and make sure that everything on the report is reportable according to the FCRA.

Our Platinum reports have a turnaround time of up to 24 hours.

For Enterprise customers, you may notice that reports take longer to come back than usual, and you might be wondering why the delay. This is because our screeners are making phone calls to current and previous landlords, as well as the applicant’s current employer.

If we get a hold of everyone on the first try, we will have the report back within the hour. But we usually end up making several phone calls to the landlords/employer before we connect.

You can see all of our tenant screening packages at this link.

Different Credit Check, Different Schedules

A credit check is slightly different from a full background check, and the time that it takes to have a credit check returned is often dependent on your prospective tenant. Some landlords don’t mind having the tenant involved, while others prefer to have quicker turnaround times. You’ll want to factor this into your decision-making when ordering a credit check.

We offer a simple credit check, and you’ll have your report within the hour during business hours. That is because these reports require zero tenant involvement.

We also offer SmartMove, which oftentimes are labeled as “instant” tenant screening reports. There truly are no instant services because tenant involvement can slow down the process.

With our SmartMove, you’ll provide the tenant applicant’s email address and then they are asked a series of questions to verify their identity.

If your tenant applicant does this within 10 minutes, you’ll have an “instant” report within 15 minutes delivered to your inbox. If your tenant applicant takes five days to respond, then your report will be turned around in five days.

The SmartMove Report also includes an option to add-on income verification where landlords can verify the income of non-traditional earners and self-employed applicants. With the income verification service, landlords will receive an annual net income summary, average monthly net income, and the amount in any current accounts that the tenant connected.

When The Wait Is Worth It

When The Wait Is Worth It

More complete reports often take more time because of issues like those mentioned above. Though taking more time to verify employer history may seem to delay the process, it actually saves landlords time. In fact, landlords love this report because it saves them the time of making those verification calls.

Without an FCRA Certified Screener reviewing the information—most specifically, the criminal and eviction reports—you could have information on it that is not compliant with the FCRA, and therefore not allowed to be held against the applicant.

Waiting for the report to be reviewed by a certified screener ensures that all information you use is compliant with current regulations. Any information you cannot use to decide about tenants will not be included in your RentPrep reports.

In the end, as long as you are screening all of your applicants, you are doing the right thing, and it doesn’t matter which package you choose. Just make sure you are happy with the information received, and that you understand how to read the completed report.

What Information You Need From A Tenant To Run A Credit Check

To run a credit check on a tenant applicant, you will need to gather some of their personal information and enter it into the desired reporting system. Specifically, you will need the following from the prospective tenant:

  • Name
  • Address
  • Social Security number or ITIN
  • Authorization to run a credit check

Without this information, you will not be able to run a full credit check on the applicant. Inquiries on credit are limited to those who have the correct information and permission to do these checks. This is because hard inquiries on credit can cause credit scores to change, and it would be unfair to consumers to allow these inquiries without permission.

Suppose you are worried about collecting this information directly from a tenant or you have tenants who are weary of sharing personal information directly. In that case, it might be in your best interest to sign up with a tenant screening service. Reliable services will allow you to email the applicant and then they can enter their information directly.

Not only is this more secure, but it also allows you to have the tenant pay for their screening cost directly rather than needing to collect the money yourself. Many landlords find this to be a more favorable way to run credit checks for that reason.

If you’re ready to learn more about tenant screening today, don’t hesitate to take advantage of the great tenant screening packages we have available at RentPrep right now!

FAQs: How Long Does It Take For A Credit Check?

How long does a credit check take if a tenant doesn’t respond?

If you are waiting for a tenant to log into a tenant screening site and complete their personal information, you will not receive any type of report until they do so. The tenant not filling out their information is the same as them withholding consent, and this means that you will not receive any credit reports until the tenant responds.

In this situation, the best way to proceed is to reach out to the applicant to find out if they are still interested in the property. If they are no longer interested, you can remove them from the screening website. If they are interested, your call should act as a quick and easy reminder to log in and fill out their information as soon as possible.

How long do credit checks last?

You can keep the credit report that you received about a tenant until you have made your decision. Then, you must destroy the records according to the rules of the FTC because this is a confidential consumer report.

If you have taken adverse action and denied an applicant based on their credit report, remember that you must alert them as to exactly why they received a rejection and how they can get a copy of the report within 60 days of your decision. Their copy of the report would come directly from the service provider, so you are still responsible for destroying your own copy of said report.

How long does a background check take for an apartment application?

The amount of time it takes for a background check to process does not change based on the type of rental unit. Like all rental background checks, the time it takes to process is dependent on the service used and how long the tenant takes to provide their information or consent.

Background checks can come back in as little as a few minutes or as long as a few days depending on the circumstances.

Do credit checks affect your credit score?

Not anymore! At one point, a credit check did affect a credit score because it was a hard inquiry.

If you run a full credit check on a prospective tenant, this is going to be a soft inquiry on their credit report.

However, multiple checks done in a short period do not compound, so tenants should not be afraid of applying to additional properties.

Are rental credit checks different from credit checks used when you apply for a loan?

When you do a rental credit check or background check, the information provided is different from when a loan provider does a background check. While some of the information you receive may be the same, the exact data used in each situation varies depending on the applicable laws.

This is why it is so important to choose a tenant screening service with FCRA-compliant screeners. These screeners know what type of information is permissible for landlords to view when making rental application decisions. In other words, it will be less likely that you’d face any consumer law missteps when using an FCRA-compliant screening service.

Get Your Credit Checks In Order

It’s time to make sure that you are ready to screen your tenants. Knowing how long credit checks usually take and what your options are for running these screenings, you can do a better job of selecting which applicants to approve.

Tenant screening is an important part of the tenant selection process, but it doesn’t need to be as difficult as some landlords make it out to be. By linking up with a reliable screening service, you can simplify how you review each application received.

To learn more about tenant screening with RentPrep, you can check out our tenant screening guide here.

Keep in mind, we have FCRA Certified Screeners standing by and ready to help answer any questions you might have! Call us at 1-888-877-8501 or send us an email at