Guide To Tenant Criminal Background Checks

We’ve said that one of the most common mistakes that landlords make is to not screen their tenants. Criminal background reports can provide valuable information to landlords. We’ll give you a few pointers on what to look for in a screening service, the types of information included in reports, and other things to consider.

What is a tenant criminal background check?

A criminal background check will search criminal records, which will include any criminal offense that has not been expunged from the tenant’s record.

Are all background checks the same? What is the best tenant screening report?

The best tenant screening report is one that is comprehensive. Look for tenant screening reports that include credit and/or evictions checks in addition to criminal background checks. Not only will this give you more information, but comparing a background record to a credit record can make your report more accurate.

Check to see if your tenant screening report includes local, state, and national records to avoid running separate searches for each database.

What will I see if my tenant has a criminal record?

If your tenant has a criminal history, then the report will show you details of the offense. A typical report will show what the offense is (i.e. Traffic violation, possession of a controlled substance, etc.) and what the end result was. Other details that might be included include the date of the record, case number, and name of the court where the case was filed.

A Note on Local, State, and National Laws

Be aware that your state may have guidelines when it comes to requesting criminal background information and notifying a tenant in the case of a denial. Know your local laws and keep thorough documentation.

The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development has issued guidelines on how Fair Housing applies to the use of information found in criminal background checks. You can read more about it here.

It is important to screen your tenants, but it is also important to use the same process to interview, screen, and notify all of your tenants regarding tenancy. Have a solid rental process and follow through with each applicant in order to maintain a fair and efficient process.

Please note: TurboTenant does not provide legal advice. Landlords and property managers should check with their local laws regarding their tenant screening process.

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