what is rental verification

Updated May 2021

When meeting a new prospective tenant, getting to know their rental history is a great way to find out if they’re going to be a good fit for your own property. But what exactly is rental verification, and how can it help you to connect a tenant to their rental history?

Real estate rentals are difficult to manage when you are facing prospective tenants who may not pay rent on time, don’t take care of your properties, or otherwise make renting difficult. This is part of the business, but taking time to get landlord reference information when receiving rental applications can help alleviate the stress and the expense.

Rental history can confirm what you might feel about a tenant, and it’s a legal way to check whether or not a tenant has good rental history. Without this information, you’re missing a vital part of the tenant screening process.

Learn more about rental verification and how it can revolutionize your rental business today.

A Table Of Contents For Rental History Verification

Ready to see what rental verification is all about and how it can improve your business? Taking 15 minutes today to implement this type of rental history check for your business will help you save a lot of time down the line.

What Is Rental Verification?

What Is Rental Verification (And Does Rental History Matter?)

Rather than gathering the credit score and credit background of a tenant as a credit check does,  a rental verification helps landlords and property managers to verify the rental history of their applicants.

Usually this is done through a background check combined with phone call verifications. Most background checks will provide rental history, but that data can be flawed at times due to database errors.

Why This Is Important

Taking time to call previous and current landlords is an important step of the rental verification process.

Though databases might help you to verify some information about a tenant, the simple fact remains that tenants can lie about their rental history. Any rental history databases that do exist are much more limited than what you get from credit databases.

This means that you might not be receiving accurate information, and your tenant might not be as great as they seem at first. Taking the extra time to do a rental verification ensures that you are getting an accurate and true rental history from your prospective tenants.

Requirements For Landlord Verification Phone Calls

When an applicant fills out a rental application and conveniently forgets their current landlord’s phone number, this should raise a red flag. Even if a tenant provides their former landlords’ phone numbers, simply seeing those numbers is not proof that they had good relationships.

Correctly executing a landlord rental verification can give you the best insight into what kind of tenant the applicant will likely be.

That said, when you want to run a rental history verification, there are few things you need to know beforehand.

What Landlords Might Tell You

A prospective tenant’s previous landlord can tell you if rent was paid on time, how rent payments were usually delivered, if there were any problems with neighbors,  if they had any noise complaints, etc.

Most landlords love giving out this information, both the horrible stories and if the applicant was their best tenant to date and they begged them not to leave.

They should never give you any private information, however, such as a tenant’s credit score—this is up to you to check yourself. You must receive permission from the tenant for that check as well.

Talking to another landlord is a great way to get an idea of the type of person a tenant might be. But remember that your decision should be based on their application and not on hearsay.

Before Conducting Verification

Before calling a previous landlord or current landlord, make sure to get all of the following information from a prospective tenant:

  • Signed consent
  • Landlord name/property management company
  • Contact information (phone number or email if necessary)
  • The address where they lived

It is essential that you get a signed consent form from a tenant. Most states require that you have permission to discuss a tenant with their former landlord due to privacy laws. If a tenant is reluctant to give this permission, explain to them why you want to make the call. Usually tenants will agree when they better understand the purpose.

During The Verification Call

The above information is necessary in order to do a rental verification, but it also helps to know the little things like:

  • How long they lived at the previous address
  • The rent amount
  • Their reason for leaving

The more information you have going into a residence verification phone call, the better. This will help you differentiate a friend from an actual landlord. When applicants try to get away with providing the phone number for a friend, very rarely do they inform them of all those little pieces of information.

If it truly is the landlord, though, they will easily know all of it, or at least be able to look at their records to confirm the details.

In the video below, we show you a mock rental verification call that gives you insight on what to say.

NOTE: RentPrep no longer provides the verification call add-on to our tenant background and credit reports. If you’d still like run a background check through our service, please use promo code “TWENTYOFF” to get 20% off your first report. Just sign up for a free account to get started.

Breaking Down The Rental Verification Process

Tenant verification is a process that might be unfamiliar to some landlords. While they are used to asking for landlord references, not everyone is familiar with what to do with those references. For those who are unsure of the overall process, we’ve put together a step-by-step guide for how you can manually complete the rental verification process.

Remember that there are some tenant screening services that will do this for you, or you might be able to hire an admin specifically to help with tenant screening. Regardless, it is important for you to know what goes into the rental verification so you better understand any information received.

Step 1: Application And Consent

The first part of this process is getting information from the prospective tenant on their application. In addition to the contact information for their previous and current landlords, you also want to make sure that you get permission to contact those individuals.

Rental history is private information, so it is inappropriate to call former landlords without permission from your prospective tenant.

Make providing this consent part of the application process as long as it is permissible in your state. Any potential tenant who is a good fit for renting will not be afraid to provide this information.

Step 2: Call The Landlords

Next, call the landlords listed. If they do not answer, leave them up to three messages asking them to call you back when possible.

Once you get in touch with the landlords, ask them to:

  • Confirm that the tenant used to live there
  • Confirm the tenant’s stated reason for vacating the property
  • Provide a brief description of how renting to the tenant was

Some landlords will provide more information than others. Your primary goal is to verify that your tenant did not lie on their application, but it is also helpful to get a glimpse into what type of tenant they were.

Step 3: Confirm Details With Tenant, If Necessary

If the landlord gives a different reason for the tenant vacating the property or shares any concerning information with you, consider connecting with the applicant to confirm those details. Just as a tenant can lie on their application, a former landlord could also be lying because they are unhappy with that tenant leaving the property.

In this type of situation, it will be up to you to determine who you believe. Usually, asking a few questions will make it clear as to whether it was a case of the two parties simply disagreeing or if one was in the wrong. As long as you have questioned the situation, however, you will have more information needed to determine the application outcome.

How Do Apartments Check Rental History?

How Do Apartments Check Rental History?When it comes to tenant verification, apartment managers use the same process as other landlords. After receiving consent from applicants, they use a series of tenant screening practices to look into their background.

Some apartment managers have paid access to large databases that include rental history information; others have employees who will manually check the information provided on applications.

Since apartment landlords and property managers usually have a lot of applications to process, most have joined a specific tenant screening service. By having applicants fill out their screening consent with those services directly, they can save time and money and do the reviews more quickly.

Rental history, however, remains one aspect of tenant screening that is often done more successfully on a manual basis. For this reason, many apartment managers have admins that specifically work on tenant screening and tenant rental history verification when needed.

If you are a tenant applying for a unit at a specific apartment complex, remember that you will need to give your consent for this type of check to be done. Feel free to ask your landlord or property manager what type of service they will be using to check your information. Most will happily disclose this intel.

Does Rental History Verification Matter?

A previous landlord can tell you if a tenant paid their monthly rent on time or if they were constantly late with payments, but does that rental history really matter?

This opinion will vary from one landlord to the next.

Some will claim that a rental history verification won’t give you a good view of the tenant because landlords will lie to get rid of a bad tenant.

This is true sometimes, so we suggest taking the opinion of the current landlord with a grain of salt when it’s positive.

However, we’ve had current landlords explain that the person is being evicted within a week. That’s why these calls are so important.

A previous landlord will shoot straight most of the time as there isn’t anything to lose.

Doing a proper rental history verification is important. It doesn’t take a lot of time, and one phone call can save you months of headaches. Keep the goal of your call to ensure that the information provided is accurate.

How Many Phone Calls Should Be Made For A Verification?

This is going to differ depending on who you talk to, but we have found that three phone calls, with messages left each time, within a 24-hour period is best.

Because let’s be honest, if you leave someone three messages and they don’t call you back, why would leaving one more message make them pick up the phone?

Talking to landlords and supervisors is important, though, and you need those conversations to help make your decision on whether the applicant is a good fit for your property.

To help get return phone calls from stubborn landlords/supervisors, one of our clients will actually call the applicant and tell them that their landlord/supervisor is not returning our phone calls.

Doing this will also help to show you how serious the applicant is about renting from you. If they really want the place, then they will call and ask the landlord/supervisor to call back and follow up with you.

On the other hand, if they aren’t so serious, you most likely won’t hear from that individual again.

If you want to learn more about making the verification calls, check out another great article here.

What Is A Rental Verification Form?

A rental verification form is an authorization form that a tenant applicant will sign to give permission to the landlord to perform a background check. This also includes the ability to call the current employer, previous landlord, and current landlord.

Many applications have this built right into the app. Feel free to grab our free rental application here.

In addition to this great, free rental verification form, we have a batch of forms that can be very helpful for landlords getting started with their first few rental properties. Our Starter Form Kit has everything that you need to find success!

Rental Verification FAQs

How Does Rental Verification Work?

Rental verification is typically a manual process done by landlords to confirm that the information given on a rental application is accurate and true.

After receiving permission from the prospective tenants, landlords make calls to the listed current and former landlords. Through these calls, you can verify the rental history of an applicant. Additionally, you can get a general idea of what type of tenants they were for their previous landlords.

While people can change and become better tenants, it’s always a good idea to do a rental verification, to get an idea of the baseline expectation for any potential tenant.

Do Landlords And Rental Agencies Call Employers And Landlords?

When getting ready to rent their real estate to a new tenant, landlords and rental agencies both may call employers and former landlords. Any information given by a tenant on their rental application is subject to verification by the landlord if the applicant consents to this check.

Landlords and agencies rely on receiving monthly rent in a timely manner, and this is why they often want to do a verification of employer and rental history information that’s provided by the prospective tenants. By confirming that the tenant is being honest about their job and where they have rented before, they can feel more confident in a tenant’s potential.

What Shows Up On A Rental Background Check?

Many tenants are curious about what is going to show up on their rental background check. If you ask them to consent to this type of background check, they might think that it is nothing more than a credit check.

Ultimately, the exact information given in a rental background check will depend on the type of background check that you run as a landlord.

Background checks can contain a variety of information:

  • Credit score
  • Address history
  • Employment history
  • Liens and collections
  • Consumer statements
  • Public records
  • Eviction records
  • AKAs (former names)
  • Criminal records

The information that you want a background check to contain depends on what you plan to use for tenant screening. Not all landlords need this amount of information, but most find that the more information, the better for choosing the right tenant.

Remember that you have many options when it comes to choosing where to run your background checks. Choose the service that will provide you with the best, most accurate information for tenant screening success.

Should Landlords Spend Time On Rental Background Checks?

Some landlords may wonder if the time needed to get consent for background checks and run them is worth it. We absolutely think that the time is a great investment.

When set up properly, running background checks doesn’t need to be an overly time-consuming part of your application and tenant screening process. The consent form for a background check should be part of the application, and it is easy to automate background checks when you utilize the latest in tenant screening services.

The information provided by background checks and rental verifications is invaluable for determining if a tenant is the right fit for your rental property. Your income is going to be reliant on having tenants who pay on time, so make sure that you take the necessary steps to choose the right tenant for your rental property.

What Is Rental Verification? A Useful Tool!

Ultimately, rental verifications are a great way to get an idea of whether your prospective tenants are ready to make rent payments or if they’re more than likely to play games. Tenant screening is an essential part of managing rental property, and rental verification should be part of your tenant screening process.

By taking time to ensure that you are renting to honest tenants who are prepared for the responsibility of renting, you will see better bottom lines and face less stress. Working as a landlord is hard enough without the added stress of having dishonest tenants! Improve your tenant screening process today to make your job easier than ever before.

To learn more about how to do a rental verification call, including how to accept on as a former landlord, check this out: