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How to Run a Tenant Criminal Background Check

Alexandra Goldthwaite - Tuesday, August 2, 2022
Property Management Blog

Did you know that over 70 million Americans have a criminal record?

Tenant looks can be deceiving. During your tenant selection, a person may seem mature, responsible, and reliable. But when 1 in 5 Americans have a run-in with the law, there's a chance you could be letting a ne'er-do-well live on your property.

You need a tenant criminal background check. This is an easy process that could save you from liability in the future. In this guide, you'll learn how to get a background check on tenants.

Determine How to Use This Information

Before you even run the check, you need to know what you'll do with the information ahead of time. 

The vast majority of the time, a criminal record is a traffic ticket or a misdemeanor the tenant committed as a teenager. That's probably not sufficient grounds to deny an applicant. You need to decide what standard you'll use when accepting or rejecting a tenant. 

It's important to reject the obvious ones like a sex offender, violent criminal, or someone that was evicted. But you should consider whether an offense like smoking marijuana or a DUI merits denying their tenancy.

Know Discrimination Laws

The decision on accepting or rejecting is up to you, but know that you could face discrimination charges for denying marginalized groups. Knowing how to handle a background check is half the battle.

Compliance with the Fair Housing Act means knowing how discrimination charges can happen. Running a background check based on something like gender or race is illegal. Further, you can't use this check as a cover in the event you want to reject someone for their age or sexual orientation.

Obtain Consent

In most cases, it is illegal to run a tenant background check unless you've received permission to do so beforehand. Even if it isn't illegal, this is a good ethical practice that establishes trust during tenant placement.

The easiest way to do this is to require consent with the signing paperwork. Otherwise, you can include it as a separate form.

Collect the Required Information

In most cases, you'll need the tenant's full name, as well as their social security number. Safeguard this information and use best practices when storing it. Respect your tenant's privacy by controlling who sees this information.

Shop Around for a Tenant Criminal Background Check Service

Not all background check services are equal. Some focus on obtaining background checks for high-level clearance, such as in airports. Others offer all-around checks for employers and landlords.

The important thing is that your selected service adheres to the Federal Trade Commission regulations. Once you have your tenant's consent, it's time to get that report.

Payment Options

You can foot the bill yourself, or have your renter do it. If you plan to make your renter pay for the background check, make sure to inform them. Break down their rental application fee if you include it there.

If you need a free background check, this is a great way to do it.

Know Your Tenants

A tenant criminal background check is an essential tool when vetting your prospective renters. It's easy to do and can provide information you wouldn't get otherwise. However, know the discrimination laws and make sure to obtain consent before getting a background check on tenants.

Being a landlord isn't easy. That's why you should get in contact with the property management professionals in Sacramento.