Tenant Screening: What to Expect

Portrait of a landlord and potential tenant filling out rental application

You found a great apartment complex that has everything you need at a rental price you’re looking for. It’s going to be great moving in and enjoying the new environment. However, when you showed interest in renting the apartment, the landlord asked to do a tenant screening on you. What’s all that about?

Relax. For most people, a tenant background check isn’t any cause for concern. It is a way to both protect your landlord and protect you as well. Let’s break it down and fully explore what a tenant check is and what it means to you.

What is a tenant screening?

A tenant screening is a tenant credit check, rental background check, and a tenant background search that helps landlords weigh in the risk of letting a prospective tenant sign a lease agreement.

Why do landlords insist on doing a tenant screening?

The purpose of a tenant screening is to verify that a potential renter’s information is accurate along with determining if it is worth the risk of entering into a lease agreement with that potential renter. It may seem overboard, but lease agreements entitle renters to certain rights and benefits.

Many states protect the rights of renters once they have signed a lease agreement to an apartment or condo. Once the agreement is signed, it becomes very difficult for landlords to legally evict tenants for non-payment or for illegal behavior. Even if the landlord is justified in evicting a tenant, it could take a long time for an eviction to be legally enforced through the courts.

All of this is actually a good thing for renters, since it prevents crooked landlords from ousting tenants illegally. However, this means that a landlord wants to be extra cautious in who they let rent their properties, since they cannot easily remove them if they turn out to be trouble. A tenant screening essentially gives the landlord a look into your past and your supposed character to make sure you are worth taking the risk of renting out the apartment to you.

What will the landlord check during a tenant screening?

A tenant screening can vary and can consist of a number of different kinds of reports. A basic minimum rental credit check or tenant screening includes:

  • Checking a credit report
  • Verifying your Social Security number
  • Checking your criminal background history

While that is the bare minimum, some landlords dig a little bit deeper. They may request looking into other reports or require a:

  • Evictions search
  • Landlord reference
  • Sex Offender Registry search
  • Employment verification
  • Bankruptcy search
  • Search for pending lawsuits
  • Full verification of identity

The landlord will state what he or she needs to look at up front so you will know what private information the landlord will see.

What does this mean for me, the renter?

If you have good credit, good references, and don’t have any blemishes on your record, then there is nothing to be concerned about. There will be no reason for the landlord to refuse to let you rent the apartment. No harm, no problem.

If you have poor credit or a couple of bad marks, it may be troublesome. If you were convicted of a criminal act, you probably won’t be approved. However, some imperfections, like a previous eviction or bankruptcy, won’t immediately disqualify you. Some landlords might allow you to rent despite that, but would likely ask for a higher security deposit to offset the risk. At least now you know what to expect.

When you pass your tenant screening and get the new apartment, you want to make sure everything inside is covered. Freeway Insurance can offer you a great price on quality renters insurance that will cover potential damage or theft of your possessions. Get a free renters insurance quote today and save!