What to Include in a Tenant Background Check

Tammy Cohen, PHR, SHRM-CP

September 9 2019

Landlords and property managers know that a tenant background check is a simple way to vet potential new residents. But some may be overwhelmed by the breadth of services available to them. How should a tenant background check be conducted? What should it include? And what exactly do all these services actually do?

If you’re struggling with what to include on your tenants’ background checks, here’s a quick overview of what you need to know. 

Spotting Smooth Criminals

A criminal history search is the foundation of any background check, tenant or otherwise. It uncovers your tenant’s criminal history, if they have one. These kinds of searches can be conducted at the local, state, national, or international level. A criminal history check is vital for a variety of reasons. A potential tenant with a history of property damage, for example, may make landlords wary.

Checking a candidate’s criminal history is vital not only for the protection of your business, but also for you, your tenants, and any staff that may interact with residents. No one can predict how a tenant will behave in the future. But a criminal history search can provide you with valuable context to your tenant’s application.

Trust but Verify

Verifications are another important part of any tenant background check. There are several types of verifications, but all of them perform a similar function. They ensure that candidates are telling the truth on their applications about their employment, previous addresses, and references. If you don’t follow up on these to ensure they’re correct, you’re leaving yourself open to potential poor-quality candidates.

In a tenant background check, landlords and property managers should focus primarily on employment verifications and reference checks. An employment verification confirms that your applicant a) has an income and b) their income meets your rental requirements. A reference check is a more optional, but still valuable, part of a tenant background check. By asking for a reference from a previous landlord, for example, you gain a better understanding about what to expect from the applicant if they were to become your tenant.

It’s All About the…Credit?

Another component to any tenant background check is the credit history check. This will uncover your candidate’s credit score and give you an overview of their credit history, including any recent bankruptcies or evictions. Using this information, landlords can make more informed decisions when deciding to whom they want to lease out a unit.

According to TransUnion, the average eviction will cost $3,500 and take 3-4 weeks to fully run its course. This is assuming no issues arise with spiteful tenants and you have no difficulty filling the vacancy. The best way to prevent an eviction is to carefully vet your tenants and view their credit history before they sign the lease. 

But Wait, There’s More!

Creating a tenant screening program that works for you and your property’s needs is essential to finding great tenants. While criminal checks, verifications, and credit history checks are all vital components of a tenant background check, they aren’t the only services landlords and property managers should take advantage of. Sanctions searches, SSN traces, and identity verification software all help you confirm that you are getting the whole story on your potential tenants.

You’re looking for the right tenant, but you don’t have to look any further for the right background screening partner. Contact InfoMart today.

About Tammy Cohen

Tammy Cohen, an industry pioneer and expert in identity and employment screening, founded InfoMart 30 years ago. Deemed the “Queen of Screen,” she’s been a force behind industry-leading innovations. She was most recently the first-to-market with a fully compliant sanctions search, as well as a suite of identity services that modernizes talent onboarding. Tammy revolutionized the screening industry when she stepped into the field, developing the first client-facing application and a due diligence criminal search that has since become standard for all background screening companies. Cohen has received national awards and honors for her business and civic involvement, including Atlanta Business Chronicle’s Top 25 Women-Owned Firms in Atlanta, Enterprising Women Magazine’s Enterprising Women of the Year award, the YWCA of Northwest Georgia’s Kathryn Woods Racial Justice Award, and a commendation in the 152nd Congressional Record.

About InfoMart

InfoMart has been revolutionizing the global background and identity screening industry for 30 years, providing businesses the information they need to make informed hiring decisions. They develop innovative technology that modernizes talent onboarding, including a first-to-market biometric identity authentication application and a verified sanctions search. The WBENC-certified company is a founding member of the Professional Background Screening Association, and they have achieved PBSA accreditation in recognition of their consistent business practices and commitment to compliance with the FCRA. The company is dedicated to customer service, speed, and accuracy, and it has been recognized for its success, workplace culture, and corporate citizenship with over 45 industry awards. To Get the Whole Story on InfoMart, please visit, follow @InfoMartUSA, or call (770) 984-2727.

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