You heard it on the news, read about it in your local newspaper, and probably have a few stories of your own to share about… nightmare tenants. A search for the term on Google reveals more than 465,000 results, with landlord horror stories ranging from tenant rent default, theft, property vandalism, and exhausting eviction processes.
How can you, as a landlord, protect yourself against “bad” tenants? Perform a tenant background and credit check.
Your tenant screening process will usually start with the rental application form, which will contain information such as:
- social security number
- past addresses
- names of co-applicants
- income and financial references
- criminal history
- military status
- driver’s license
The application should also include a “release of information” statement which enables you to continue with the online tenant background check. The release of information should include, but not be limited to, the tenant’s criminal background check, eviction history and the tenant’s credit check.
Some landlords require tenants to pay a non-refundable screening, application or credit check fee. It is up to you to decide whether the tenant background check should be considered among your business expenses or not.
Upon receiving the signed application, you can start the online tenant background check. The screening report could include the tenant’s eviction history (not available in all states), the tenant’s credit check, past addresses, criminal records (not available in all states), sex offender records or evidence of social security number fraud. Remember that the information provided by your applicant in the application form holds little value if you do not verify it.
One of the general rules when it comes to tenant screening is to screen every applicant. Don’t let yourself be fooled by an applicant’s nice manners and appearance. Also, if you only screen tenants based on their poor appearance or other biased reasons you may be sued for discriminatory practices.
Another important aspect is to include a criminal records and sex offender search as part of your tenant background check. The Federal Fair Housing Act allows landlords to turn down an applicant who poses a threat to the health and safety of other persons.
Many tenant screening services offer a criminal background check as a separate product. Others, like ScreeningWorks, have acted upon their customers’ preferences and provide criminal searches as part of their main tenant background check product.
ScreeningWorks is a reliable online service to use for your tenant background and credit checks. It is a service aimed at small landlords or independent rental owners (IRO) and is offered by RentGrow, a 20-year-old provider of resident screening services for the multi-housing industry across the U.S.
ScreeningWorks’ tenant background check report comprises seven sections*:
- Multi-state criminal check
- Sex offender search
- Statewide tenant eviction search
- Tenant credit check
- Address history search results
- OFAC – Government watch-list search
- Social Security Number fraud
Because the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) does not allow any tenant screening service to provide a full credit report without an onsite inspection, ScreeningWorks has developed a unique and easy-to-use credit evaluation scale. The scoring system is specifically geared towards evaluating credit for tenancy and has a 3-rating scale. Your final tenant credit report will assign one of the three ratings to an applicant: minimal, elevated, or serious credit risk.
If your tenant credit check reveals a history of late payments, you have the right to deny the rental application. Please keep in mind that a written notice must be sent to the tenant, as several possibilities to deny such accusations exist. As state and local laws might differ, please contact your local enforcement agency for further details.
Other legitimate reasons revealed through your tenant background check, by which you can refuse a tenant are a record of eviction, intentionally falsifying information on an application, a criminal record history, or poor landlord references.
Having read all this you can start performing a background check on your tenant. ScreeningWorks delivers results in less than 15 minutes, making it a truly instant service. Give it a try now!
Note: Please note that in some states not all of the seven product offerings are available. Please check ScreeningWorks’ pricing & product information page for details.