Landlord's background checks of potential tenants cover the applicant's rental history, work history, credit record and criminal record, if any. Basically, a future landlord wants to know if you've been a troublesome tenant in the past, have a criminal record or have failed to make timely rental payments. The landlord also needs to be assured that your income supports the cost of the lease. Some landlords, particularly property management companies, run extensive checks that go beyond these basics; others are satisfied with less information.
Typical Renter Application Agreements
These are the basic information areas in a typical renter application agreement:
- The first request establishes who you are. It asks for your name, Social Security number, phone number, driver's license number and expiration date.
- Almost every lease application asks for your work history. Forms generally ask for your job title, the length of time at each job and contact information for each employer. Most ask for your current income.
- Another basic request is for your relationship information: Whether you're single, married or living with a partner, and the names, ages and genders of those who will be living with you. Some forms also ask for next-of-kin contact information.
- Most landlords want to know if you're a smoker and if you have pets.
Giving Your Permission
Another section of the tenant's rental application will ask for your permission for the landlord to run a background check. The landlord must have your permission before he can run a criminal record check, for example, or pull your credit reports. For tenants, it's virtually impossible to refuse to give this consent. While you may not like the idea of the landlord pulling your information, if you refuse consent, it's a red flag that something is wrong and the landlord may refuse your rental application.
Types of Background Checks
If your application meets with provisional approval, many landlords, particularly larger leasing companies, will run two critical background checks before approving your application.
The first is your credit rating; the other is a criminal background check. The credit report is especially helpful as this will show if you are late or delinquent in paying bills, have a good credit history, or have ever been evicted from a previous rental.
Prospective landlords may also check you out on social media. If you think this could be a problem, do what you can to make this information private before applying for a lease.
Don't Conceal Adverse Entries
If there are aspects of your tenant history that are adverse, such as a bad relationship with a former landlord, a bankruptcy or any other problematic matter, the last thing you want to do is to try to conceal it. Instead, make a point of dealing with it at the beginning of the process. For example, if you've moved out of a lease shortly after moving in – a fact that landlords understandably do not like to see on an application. If you had a good reason for doing so, such as a parent with medical problems that required you to move closer to help out, make this information known in one way or another at the beginning of the process to increase your chances of getting the lease.
A downloadable two-page rental application form is included in the Resources section of this article. Filling out this form before you begin hunting for a lease can help you see where your application may need additional support.
I am a retired Registered Investment Advisor with 12 years experience as head of an investment management firm. I also have a Ph.D. in English and have written more than 4,000 articles for regional and national publications.