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Steps to Check an Applicant’s Rental History

Posted: January 10, 2022

At a minimum, landlords want a renter who will pay the rent on time and take care of their property. One of the best ways of determining whether an applicant will be a tenant you’d want renting your property is by screening the applicant. In all likelihood, a good tenant will have a record of being a good tenant in the past. This is not always true—first-time renters, for example, can still be excellent tenants. However, a thorough check of your applicant’s credit, criminal and eviction history can be a valuable tool in finding a reliable renter. Here are six steps for conducting a rental history check:

  1. Determine Renter Criteria—The first step in any screening process is determining what you want in a tenant. Defining criteria at the beginning can help you make balanced decisions as you go through the process. How will you handle an applicant with a criminal history? Is it okay if an applicant has paid rent late in the past?
  2. Talk to the Applicant—Once you determine your criteria, you should talk to any applicants and tell them that you are requiring information about rental history. You can also choose to include this requirement in the original apartment listing so that you only get applicants who are willing to share. You also want to go ahead and obtain contact information for an applicant’s previous landlords (usually at least three).
  3. Get Signed Release—The third step is having the applicant sign a tenant information release form, allowing you to check their credit, criminal convictions and background. This can be added to the initial application process or done separately.
  4. Check References—After receiving the signed release, you can contact an applicant’s previous landlords. Even a short conversation with an applicant’s previous or current landlord can help you know the applicant’s ability to pay rent, if they were timely on rent payments,  how long they stayed at the past rental, and if the landlord would rent to them again.
  5. Check Eviction History—An eviction history report can answer a critical question about any renter’s history: has the renter ever been evicted in the past? Eviction history reports can be done at the state or national level. If you know an applicant has lived in more than one state, it is best to choose a nationwide eviction search.
  6. Conduct Full Tenant Screening—A renter’s history isn’t just about evictions or previous landlords. Credit history can tell you a lot about the likelihood of a tenant paying their rent on time. A tenant credit check and background check are essential parts of any screening process.

Examining rental history can ensure you find an applicant who is the right fit for your property. A thorough screening process might take more time up-front, but it can help save you from the cost and hassle of eviction.