Tenant Reference Check: Everything You Need to Know
Background checks are a necessity for any landlord or any property management firm. While many potential tenants view them as nothing more than a formality, something that simply needs to take place during the rental process, the truth is, they provide enough details about your past – your previous landlords, your credit rating, your behavior at all of the places you’ve rented, etc – that they have come to serve as the “last line of defense” for many landlords and rental managers. Without knowing certain details of your rental history, no landlord would ever even consider renting to you, and really, why would they? By allowing you to take tenancy in their building, they are trusting you to use their property, abide by the lease and of course, pay your rent on time every month.
Many landlords get burned by bad tenants repeatedly before they come to recognize the importance of background checks. Everybody has heard stories about “bad” tenants – the ones that move out in the middle of the night, the ones who blatantly disregard the rules of the lease, the ones who disrupt all the neighbors on their floor on regular occasions, the ones who don’t pay rent for months, the ones who damage their suite, etc – cliches like these always start in truth. Background checks are in place to prevent these types of tenants from furthering their legacies of ineptitude, and in turn to prevent their behavior from making it difficult for the legitimately good people looking to rent.
So, let’s look at both sides of the scenario.
If you’re a prospective tenant looking to rent, you’re already familiar with the notion of applications, reference checks and credit checks. A typical rental application will likely have a section regarding these items and you will be required to give your consent before they can be carried out and the information can be disclosed. It should be noted that refusal of these checks at the application stage is more or less the same as saying “thanks for your time” and politely leaving. You know some of your personal financial information is going to be disclosed, your employment history maybe looked at, and your prior landlords will likely be contacted also. If you’ve ever submitted to a personal background check, your potential landlord is looking for information that is a bit more specific – namely, if you have a criminal record, and if so, for what reason or reasons. Other things related to the criminal record check may also, but not always, include checks for any kind of court related activity, whether there is any sex offender history, and nay prior proceedings of a legal nature related to any of your past tenancies.
None of these things should be taken personally, it is a formality that all potential renters are subject to, not just you. The rental property managers or landlord have every right to protect themselves and their property from potentially harmful situations and deadbeat tenants. Your understanding of this and your compliance with allowing the checks to be run on you will likely assist in establishing a good rapport with your potential landlord, after all, if you’ve got nothing to hide there is no reason to deny the information request. The information is a statement of facts, but there may be occasions where you’ll need to provide some additional clarity or details so be prepared for your landlord to ask for more information if your situation warrants it.
Now, if you’re a landlord or you manage a property then you already understand the importance of background checks. They can prevent untold misery and interruptions in revenue very easily – without them, how would you know whether that seemingly pleasant applicant has a prior history of legal proceedings against them from past landlords? Whether or not they have a history of bankruptcy or other financial issues? If they’ve served jail time? There are a lot of things a professional background check can uncover, and at the same time, help to avoid. Know and understand your rights with regard to how you can use the information revealed in the checks to protect yourself, your property and the other tenants you already manage.