What Does A Rental Background Check Consist Of?

By PropertyClub Team
May 16th 2024
Rental background checks can seem intimidating as they can be quite thorough, consisting of an in-depth look at your past, including your employment, credit, and past rental history, as well as a criminal background check.

You’ve found an incredible apartment, and you’re ready to move in. Now that you’ve located the place you want to live, you must complete the application process. One part of the application process is the background check, which helps the landlord determine if you’re an ideal tenant to have in their building. 

If you’re uncertain about the rental background check process, you’ve come to the right place. We’ll talk about what this check is, how extensive they are, what your rights are with a background check, and so much more. It can seem intimidating to deal with a rental background check, but it’s necessary for the landlord to feel secure.

hash-markHow Extensive Are Background Checks for Apartments?

When you undergo a background check, there are several things that landlords typically look at to determine if they’re going to let you rent out the space. These inform the landlords about critical information to determine if you’re worth letting into their complex. They don’t want an unreliable tenant.

Let’s talk about a few of the main things a background check will dive into when you want an apartment. By understanding what a background check consists of, you can prepare yourself.

Employment History

Your employment history is one of the first things that will be checked in a background check. Most apartments want three times the rent before you can commit, so they review to ensure you have a job that can provide consistent income for rent. They’ll also note if you’ve committed to the job for a long time or if you’ve recently been fired. 

Sometimes, a landlord will call your employer to verify information provided or questions they might have. Most landlords want renters who have been employed for at least six months, though you could get a second letter of recommendation if you just started this job. 

Your employment history can say a lot about the person you are. If you tend to bounce from job to job, you might not be trusted to pay rent monthly. On the other hand, if you’ve stuck with a career for years, you’re more likely to stick with a location and make the payments on time every month.

Credit History

Another thing they will check is your credit history. This review includes your credit score, payment history, and overall credit report. Landlords will look through your credit history to determine, again, if you’ll be a reliable tenant.

Most apartments need a credit score of at least 600, which you can check with a credit card app. Although some landlords stick with this minimum requirement, some consider other factors. This moment is where your payment history and credit report come into play. If you make your payments on time, you’re more likely to get the apartment than someone late.

It’s critical to understand what your credit history looks like before trying to get an apartment. If you have a low credit score, you can raise it before filling out the application completely. If it’s too late for that, you can search for someone who will cosign with you to increase the odds of getting approved.

Criminal Background

Safety is one of the most prominent concerns for landlords. Most are less likely to approve someone who has a criminal background, especially those who have violent or sexual charges under their belt. Landlords want to keep themselves and the tenants in their apartments safe.

Landlords may also see non-convictions, which can stay on your record for around seven years. Serious offenses live in your history forever. Consider this fact so you can prepare your case before you go to talk to a landlord when interested in an apartment.

If you have a criminal history, it’s best to talk with the landlord ahead of time to explain yourself. This talk should happen before diving into the report, so they have a background. Write out your case with specific details to be as concise as possible when giving your argument for occupation.

Rental History

Landlords will also check out your rental history. They will learn about places you’ve rented from in the past and potentially contact the other landlords responsible for collecting your rent. They can vouch for you or inform them that you are not a reliable payer.

Now, if you have an eviction in your record, don’t worry. You can still secure an apartment despite not having a perfect rental history. To find out more, check out how to rent an with an eviction on your record.

An eviction is a warning for a landlord. You will need to explain your case ahead of time if you have ever been kicked out of an apartment building.

Of course, not everyone has a rental history. If this applies to you, you will need to provide another proof of payment. These might be pay stubs or references from other companies.

hash-markWhat Does an Apartment Background Check Cost?

When you look into an apartment, you fill out an application. With that application comes an application fee. This fee covers the overall application, and a portion of it goes toward the background check. 

Most rental application fees cost upwards of $50. More expensive apartments will often have a more expensive application fee. However, they shouldn’t be drastically pricey.

If you feel like you’re being overcharged for your application fee, check with local laws to see if there’s a maximum they can charge. Be wary of any landlord that wants to charge you an arm and a leg for an application fee. It may be tricky to have a relationship with them once you move into the area.

hash-markHow Long Does a Background Check Take for an Apartment?

The entire application for an apartment typically takes about a few days. Most range from 48-72 hours once you turn them in. A background check is a portion of this process.

A background check should take no more than a few hours, depending on how concise it is. The landlord will get back to you and inform you if you passed the check. All you have to do at that point is wait for the application process to finish. Then, you can move to your new place.

hash-markHow Far Back Do Rental Criminal Background Checks Go?

Most apartment checks go back about 7-10 years, but how far back does an apartment check go for criminal history? It’s critical to know this if you have a criminal background yourself.

If you’ve committed a felony or another serious crime, it will stay on your record. It doesn’t matter how far back the check goes. The landlord will see the actions you’ve committed.

If you’ve committed a crime dismissed in court, it will stay on your record for about 7-10 years. This period matches up with how far back a check goes. If your minor crime was more than 20 years ago and dismissed, it won’t show up on the report.

hash-markDo You Have Any Rights With Background Checks?

There are several rights you have as a potential tenant with background checks. It’s critical to understand these so you can tell when you’re getting scammed. Let’s talk about a few of the guarantees you have if you are looking to rent an apartment. 

Some of the rights include:

  • A notice about denial: A landlord must provide you with an understanding of why they chose to deny you as a tenant if they deny your application. This information can be electronic, written, or oral.
  • Rights against outdated negative information: A reporting system legally cannot provide negative info that has expired.
  • Proven policies: If landlords have policies that exclude people, they need to prove why this policy is legitimate and nondiscriminatory. 
  • Blanket criminal policy prevention: Landlords cannot have an overarching rule that excludes all people with a criminal history from becoming tenants.

These serve to protect you and other tenants against mistreatment from landlords.

Your rights keep you safe with the background check, and the background check keeps landlords from taking on a tenant they can’t rely on for the long haul. Now that you know more about this process, you can fill out your apartment application confidently. 

hash-markRental Background Check Bottom Line

Every landlord has a background check for their apartment. It ensures they get their money and that the current tenants in the building stay safe. If the apartment you’re looking at doesn’t have a background check, you might want to be cautious of the location.

A background check is a critical part of apartment renting. Your landlord has every right to ask for a background check, but it’s also critical to understand your rights as a potential tenant.