Do Landlords Run Background Checks?

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Felons typically find that most things are challenging when they return to society, which includes finding a place to live as well as getting a job. Much of society seems to turn its back on felons, and opportunities are not easily found. Felons do have options for somewhere to live even though those selections may be restricted.

Many felons look for an apartment or house to rent as their financial resources are limited. This blog post will address whether or not landlords run background checks.

  • Rental Application Information
  • Factors in a Landlord Background Check
  • Can You Run a Background Check on Yourself?
  • Recommended Action

Rental Application Information

When renting an apartment or house, there is a variety of information required for an application. It begins with basic contact information, including full name, and either a driver’s license or Social Security Number along with an email address.

Going beyond the basic data and requiring a tenant background check as part of the application can provide many benefits to a landlord. There are several reasons landlords typically require tenant background checks:

  • To protect themselves from liabilityLandlords can obtain as much information as possible because of a concern of other tenants’ safety.
  • To discourage tenants who are trying to hide somethingRequiring a tenant background check will address tenants who are trying to hide something and who may cause problems.
  • To verify application information This is to verify if an applicant was truthful, especially about a criminal history.
  • To reduce tenant turnoverRequiring a tenant background check helps attract high-quality tenants who are more likely to stay long-term.
  • To keep neighbors and community safe – Landlords think about who they are allowing to live in the community to protect individuals from potential harm.

Factors in a Landlord Background Check

Before renting a unit, an applicant may be required to give written permission for a tenant background check. Many landlords run some type of background check. They want to make a sound decision on tenants for the safety and security of the complex and its residents.

The primary factors in tenant screening are:

  • Credit history
  • Rental history
  • Evictions
  • Criminal records
  • Employment and income
  • Social Security Number

Landlords are looking for tenants who will pay rent consistently, treat their units with care, and be trouble-free tenants and neighbors. Landlords can use whatever screening criteria they want as long as they apply the criteria in a non-discriminatory manner. If they ask a question of one renter, they must ask it of all renters who apply to live in their units in order to avoid discrimination. Any tenant that is denied tenancy from a screening report must be informed in writing as to the reason.

A credit check is usually the most important part of a landlord’s background check. This will show whether there is financial stability and also how debts are handled. A landlord tends to believe that anyone who is late on their bills will also be late on their rent.

A background check shows previous addresses of residence and a rental history. This will include whether an applicant has ever been evicted. Another important part of the background check is looking at criminal history. The criminal investigation part of the background check involves a search of criminal history files for any criminal activity. A criminal background check will show all convictions and non-convictions, including cases dismissed or not prosecuted. Convictions can be reported with no time limit while a non-conviction shows up for seven years. Having their record expunged, will prevent a crime from showing up on a background check.

Some landlords may consider the following factors related to an offense when evaluating an applicant:

  • RecencyHow long ago did the crime occur?
  • Severity – Violent crimes typically are more heavily considered.
  • Frequency – An applicant that has committed several crimes may be a larger red flag than one single incident.
  • Relevance – A landlord is concerned about violent crimes, assault, theft, trespassing, vandalism, shoplifting, arson, and possession of an unauthorized weapon.
  • Legal factors – There are sometimes legal restrictions placed on individuals who have committed crimes, such as some sex offenders cannot come close to schools or parks.

Can You Run a Background Check on Yourself?

Yes, a background check can be run on yourself. Doing a background check on him or herself before applying for a rental property will allow a felon to know exactly what will be discovered when the landlord does a review.

Felons should not wait and take a chance on the results. If there are any questions, they can contact an attorney. There are different types of personal background checks that a felon can do on his or her own:

  • The court in which they were charged to provide records
  • A credit report will help determine how financially responsible an individual is
  • Driving records for any job involving driving, such as a truck driver
  • An educational report through the National Student Clearing House
  • Social media accounts

For someone wanting to do a more complete background check on him or herself, the best option is to contact a company specializing in background checks. By doing a personal background check, a felon can get a heads-up on what will be seen by the landlord and whether there are any errors that need to be corrected.

Recommended Action

Felons wanting to rent a place to live know it will take effort and persistence in finding one. They should remember there are resources available showing housing opportunities in each state. They can take the initiative and seek to have their record expunged. Also, taking the time to run a background check on themselves will allow them to see what landlords view on their check.

Having support from family, friends, or previous employers can make a huge difference. A felon doesn’t have to be defined by his or her crime. We are not defined by our mistakes but by how we recover from them. He or she can begin again and live an honest life no matter how difficult it might seem.

What do you think about this blog post? Have you or someone you know had a landlord run a background check? What was that like for them, and how did they achieve success? Please tell us in the comments below.

About the author

After earning his MBA from Benedictine University, Ron was looking for a new challenge and stumbled on the idea of helping the formerly incarcerated.

Using what he learned, Ron developed this website as a free resource and has worked with his team​ to continue answering questions for those in need.

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