Skip to main content
How to Conduct a Tenant Criminal Background Check: A Guide

How to Conduct a Tenant Criminal Background Check: A Guide

Is your worst nightmare dealing with tenants that ruin property or do illegal things while in your unit? If so, you can run a tenant criminal background check to minimize this possibility.

The laws and ethics surrounding background checks are complicated and running a tenant screening requires a particular process.

Not sure where to start? Keep reading to learn how to conduct a tenant criminal background check. 

Get Written Consent

Before you can run a tenant criminal background check, you need to get written consent from the tenant. Running a background check without notifying the potential renter is illegal.

The easiest way to do this is by requesting signatures and consent during the rental application process. You can also create a separate form to ask for permission.

Obtain Tenant Personal Information

Without the renter's full name and social security number, you won't be able to run a tenant background check. Obtain this information when your renter is filling out the rental application.

Once you have it, you can move forward with the tenant screening process.

Choose a Background Check Service

A criminal background check service can run the tenant screening for you. To choose the best one, compare your options. Most importantly, find a business that is approved by the Federal Trade Commission.

If you opt for property management services, they likely have a background check service that they already use. This saves you the trouble of looking for one on your own time.

With the information you provide to the background check service, they will run the report and get back to you as soon as possible.

Decide How to Pay for the Background Check

Depending on the service you choose, a background check might cost you anywhere from $15 to $40. You can either pay for this yourself or require the rental applicant to pay the fee.

To have this covered by the tenant, you can include the fee in the cost of the rental application.

Plan How to Use the Information

Create a plan on how you'll use the information you receive from a tenant's criminal background check. How will it affect your decision? What can you deny a tenant for?

To be a fair landlord, you'll want to set these boundaries and parameters ahead of time. Hold all applicants to the same standard to avoid discrimination problems down the line.

Know the Laws

Landlords must be compliant with the Fair Housing Act and avoid discrimination. Knowing the laws will help you understand what you can and can't do when accepting or rejecting tenant applications.

What you cannot do is run a background check because of someone's gender or race. You also can't run a background check because you want to cover for rejecting someone based on age or sexual orientation.

Conducting a Tenant Criminal Background Check the Right Way

The law says that there is a right and wrong way to conduct a tenant criminal background check. If you forgo the steps in this guide, you are likely to have a lawsuit on your hands for tenant discrimination.

Always get written consent from the tenant, set boundaries for rejections, and know the laws.

For additional help with the tenant placement and screening process, hire a property management company. Contact us today to learn what we can do for you.