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The Importance Of Background Checks

Illustration about a background check for a tenant
January 30, 2020

According to Wikipedia, a background check is “the process of looking up and compiling criminal records, commercial records, and financial records of an individual or organization.” Yes, this is true, but it’s so much more than that when it comes to property management, making sure a certain tenant is right for their community! If you’ve ever rented an apartment, you’ve most likely been asked to do several things. Let’s talk them out below!

Before you sign a lease, you need to go through the lease terms. You need to know when it begins and ends, how long you have to move in and out, the number of parking spaces you are allotted, and so much more.

You’ll also need to pay an application fee if you’re moving in with roommates, great! You can potentially split it! If you’re moving into a place by yourself, that’s all on you. Typically, however, application fees are charged per tenant. Application fees are in existence so that property management can subsidize the time and money it takes to research prospective renters. It’s non-refundable even if you are not granted the tenancy.

Many property management/housing businesses request a background check on potential tenants so that they do not end up with unsuitable people (ex-criminals, child molesters, etc.) moving into their properties, especially if children are located in the community. Property managers can NOT discriminate based on race, age, gender, or family status, but keep in mind that they do have a responsibility to their other tenants to keep their community safe from criminal behavior and illegal activities.

Background checks encompass many things. Usually, you’ll be asked to provide proof of identity. A valid driver’s license does the trick. You may need to provide a second form of ID, in which case, a passport or social security card works. Don’t be flustered if you see the property manager making copies of these items. That’s just for their own records, and you will receive the original one back.

Another thing that may go hand in hand with this is a credit score. Why? Because property managers don’t want someone with bad credit moving into their units or homes. Again, why? Because they may be more likely to skip out on monthly rent payments or be evicted. Of course, they can’t just run a credit check on you. You’ll have to permit them first. A low score doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll be denied. However, they may request that you pay a higher security deposit than someone who does have good credit. If you know your score is low, let them know upfront. They WILL find out by running a credit check, and there’s no use trying to hide it. Another way to up the “honesty and reliability” factor is to offer to pay more upfront if you know your credit score is low. If the first and last month’s rent is due upfront, offer to pay first, second, and maybe even the third month’s rent.

If you know your background check is going to come back looking…less than stellar, you may want to take some precautions. First of all, just like with a credit check, you need to be upfront about any past indiscretions. It’s better to let property management know of any poor marks on a background check so that they don’t think you’re trying to pull a fast one on them. Secondly, you can provide references. These references can be personal or business-related. A boss or prior landlord who has nothing but good things to say about you would be a great person to ask for a reference. If you do end up asking a previous landlord, be sure that they specify that your rent payments were always on time, you didn’t do any damage to the property, how much you paid, and that you were a good tenant who didn’t give them any problems.

All in all, background checks ARE an important part of the property management world. Think about where you currently live. Don’t you hope that people moving into your community have been through a thorough background check?


SEO Strategist at Help Scout, where we make excellent customer service achievable for companies of all sizes. Connect with her onLinkedIn or Instagram.

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