What Information is on a Tenant Background Check?

Remember its not always just about the bad stuff
When we think about tenant background checks, we are conditioned to think that it’s only for uncovering negative material. But remember that the point to screening tenants is to find the right fit for your rental unit. So be prepared to see positive information that will help you feel comfortable with your rental decision.
The presentation may differ, however the actual information that is on the tenant background check can be easily broken up into three categories: The Good, The Bad and The Ugly.

The Good

  • A positive verification from a current or previous landlord
  • No adverse reporting for financial or criminal data
  • Credit Score above 650 (See how we got this number)

The Bad

  • Previous bankruptcies (3 years or older)
  • Multiple arrest records
  • Credit Score between 500 and 649
  • Bad recommendation from current or previous landlords (noise complaints, late rent, etc.)
  • Low balance judgments
  • State and Federal Tax Liens

The Ugly

  • Current Bankruptcy (filed within the past 3 years)
  • Multiple and high balance judgments
  • Multiple and high balance liens
  • Arrest records resulting in convictions of crimes
  • Sex Offenders
  • Credit Scores below 500
  • Evictions
  • Invalid Social Security Number

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A note about criminal and eviction searches
Be careful with the screening company you choose, and make sure they are conducting Nationwide searches. It won’t help you to run a background check on an applicant that has just moved to your state within the past 6 months, and you are doing Statewide searches only. Of course they will come up with nothing found. Same goes for evictions. Look at our breakdown of searches on our pricing page, and you’ll notice that all RentPrep packages include Nationwide Criminal and Eviction searches.
Some landlords don’t care about criminal records, and just want to ensure that the applicant can pay their rent on time and haven’t been evicted in the past 7 years. Others find it way more important to know if an applicant has ever been charged with a Felony, or spent time in jail. In the end, it is up to you to decide what information you are looking for on the applicants, and then find the tenant screening company that best fits your needs.
A recent survey of our landlord clients revealed that evictions are the single most important decision factor to rent to someone. Makes sense to me.