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How to do a Tenant Background Check | Be Your Own Detective

Tenant BackgroundWhy Screen Potential Renters and Roommates?

Implement the tenant screening process to help eliminate your tenant problems. Rent to a properly qualified tenant, because a bad tenant can cost you money, or damage your property. You might be liable for the tenant's actions.

Check the backgrounds of potential renters who will have access to your home or business property. A tenant screening report will either confirm or expose false statements on an application. A tenant screening background check will indicate whether or not a person is financially secure and stable.

 Need to check-out a potential renter? Our experienced database search specialists will immediately go to work for you, to quickly return real, meaningful results.

Phone Interview

Potential tenant's first contact with you or your rep is usually by telephone, so learn listen, and to ask the right qualifying questions right then. You can learn a lot about people even before meeting them.
Name, phone:
Reason for moving:
Number# of people:
Children & Ages:
Occupancy Date:
Pets?
Smoking?
Landlord Reference?
To further qualify the prospective tenant, mention up-front rent and security deposit requirements.

Personal Interview

Appearance
Is the prospect neat and clean? Does he or she make a good impression? An unkempt person generally maintains an unkempt lifestyle and home.

Vehicle
Does the prospect drive a presentable vehicle? Is it clean?

Attitude & Manners
Does the prospect show respect? Or do you sense this is someone you may find difficult to deal with in the future? Did the prospect wipe his or her feet when stepping into the rental, or walk in while smoking? Pay attention to details.

The Application

Get a signed and dated rental application that includes a "Release of Information Statement." The signed Application/Release will grant you the right to access medical, worker's compensation, educational, credit, criminal, and court records.

A tenant screening report will either confirm or expose false statements on an application. A tenant screening background check will indicate whether or not a person is financially secure and stable.

Note: What you are looking for on the application are lies and inconsistencies - differences between what you are being told and what public records and propitiatory database searches reveal. Spend time going over the application; don’t just toss it on the stack of applications you need to consider.

Get a signed application from all who will inhabit: roommates, husbands, wives and cosigners. A screening report on every applicant is affordable protection against renting to a potentially deadbeat tenant. Always cross-check information provided by a prospective tenant.

There are two ways to confirm the information on the application. You can get some information from the people listed as references. Other information must be confirmed by records searches.

The Application for property rental should ask for (at minimum):
  • Applicants full name, SSN, present address
  • Addresses past 10 years
  • Full names of all co-renters and all occupants
  • Landlords past 10 years
  • Employers past 3 years
  • References (3) including addresses, phone
  • Credit report
  • Relatives names, addresses, phone numbers
  • DOB, place of birth,
  • Education
  • Driver's license number, state issued (make a copy of the license)
  • Vehicles and property owned
  • Professional license data

Confirm by Database

A tenant screening database search offered by information providers will confirm your tenant's identity, SSN, DOB, address history, and reveal addresses not provided on the application. Names of others who have lived with the subject and neighbors will surface. These findings may prove valuable as some applicants will intentionally leave out data regarding an unfavorable situation.

If you decide to deny rental, the application, along with your findings of various databases, should be the basis of your evaluation. You must inform the applicant the reason for denial.

Check References

Personal
Call the personal references provided on the application. Ask how long have they have known applicant. Ask about character and reliability.

Landlords
Call the landlords listed on the application with questions: Were they good tenets? Did they pay their rent on time? Was property left in good condition? Were there any problems?

Neighbors
Refer to your database search for information for neighbors for previous addresses. Ask: Did you know the applicant? Where they good neighbors? Did they have noisy pets? Did they have loud parties? Did they take good care of the property?

Employer
Contact human recourses or department supervisor. Inquire about "from - to" dates of employment, salary range, job description.

Self Employed or Business Owner
Ask for copies of last two or three months banking statements. Or, ask for copies of tax filings. Valuable information about a company is maintained by each state's Secretary of State, corporation division. You may choose to run a business background check on the applicant's company.

Criminal History

Check records held by the various courts. Federal records are maintained at Federal District Courts. The State Supreme Court, Department of Justice, keeps state records. State records are stored in Criminal Records Repositories. Criminal records are most complete at the county courthouse.

Criminal history searches should include a county criminal court search, a statewide criminal courts search, a national Department of Corrections felon search, and a search of offenders' databases. The OFAC's Patriot Act Search Database is a watch list, a compilation database of national and international databases.

Important: Criminal records are indexed by name and date of birth. This information is often misrepresented by people who are attempting to make it difficult to connect them to a record. Search databases inputting all known and discovered variations and aliases.

The records will show:
  • Charges, adjudication, and outcome
  • SSN & DOB
  • Physical description, aliases, personal information
  • Spouse, children

Credit Reports

Obtain a credit report on a prospective tenant. The credit report is especially important because it will indicate whether a particular person has a history of paying rent or bills late.

To run a credit check, you will need a release, signed by the prospective tenant, which includes name, address, and Social Security number.

Information Providers

Database Searches
Previous addresses, landowners, and roommates are revealed in database searches. National, state, and county criminal courts records can be searched. Eviction databases searches confirm application input information. Sex Offender databases can be scrutinized. National trace searches confirm identity, past addresses, and identify neighbors. Credit Header searches confirm Social Security Numbers provided by applicant.

When selecting a tenant screening company, look for connections to a network of nationwide eviction databases with direct access and fast turnaround time. A local eviction or skip database source may not provide sufficient background information on a tenant moving in from another state.

 
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