What Shows up on a Background Check?

iStock.com/Ralf Geithe

Finding the apartment of your dreams is an exciting prospect, however, applying and securing that apartment can often cause anxiety, even for seasoned tenants.

Whether you are renting your first apartment or looking for a new place, you will likely meet with a property owner or manager who requests a background check. If you are wondering what appears on a background check, you are not alone. We will explain what to expect when an owner performs a background check and what exactly is included in the report.

Your professional experience

While there are some questions that an owner cannot ask you, this does not cover income or employer questions, past and present. This component of the background check is not intended to interfere in your personal life. Landlords are looking for this information to assess whether a tenant can pay the rent in full each month on time. If you have a solid work experience, the owner will probably deduce that you are responsible, that you have a reliable job and that you have a stable income.

If necessary, you can also provide pay stubs or other documents proving your monthly income. It also helps your case if you can show longevity at a position. Request a statement from a human resources manager or your boss if you’ve been working in the same place for a long time (use this proof of income model to make it easier for them). This will show your future landlord that you are committed to showing him how responsible you will be as a tenant.

Your rental history

Your residential history is also a factor in your background check. A background check usually lists all previous addresses, if you paid your rent quickly and if you have ever had to pay late fees. The background check will also indicate whether you have ever been involved in a deportation process, whether or not you have been deported.

Although a blank rental history gives you an advantage over other candidates, owners often forgive a few indiscretions if you can give them a valid explanation. People lose their jobs and have roommates. Life is coming. The owners understand that! Come prepared with concise explanations if you have these red flags in your story.

If you can provide receipts that show that you have caught up with rent payments after a difficult time, do so. You can even ask a former owner for a short reference letter stating that you have paid off your debts within a reasonable time. This positive reflection on your character will help you find a possible new owner on your side.

Your relationship with the former owners

If an owner does a thorough screening process, they will likely contact the previous owners, as well as your personal or professional references. Contacting references helps landlords verify the facts, assess your tenant behavior and make sure you make a good tenant.

A rental background check can display your address history. The owners or property managers will check if you have rented from these known addresses, then compare the history with what you include on your rental request.

A good rental history means that you are a stable tenant, but what if you don’t have a rental history? You can always enter this large apartment if you have a co-signer (think of a parent, guardian or friend). This additional level of insurance for your landlord will give you peace of mind and you are well on your way to placing the apartment at the top of your list.

Criminal history

A criminal record can play an important role in the screening process. If you only commit victimless crimes like unpaid parking tickets, you won’t have to worry too much. Serious offenses such as theft, theft, fraud, assault, battery, domestic violence or driving under the influence, however, will give owners a break.

So how far back does a background check go? Arrest and police records can remain visible for seven years, while criminal convictions can remain permanently on your record.

If you have a history of serious offenses, take a few steps before looking for apartments. Get a copy of your criminal record and ask the court if they can modify or delete any of the offenses to reflect positive actions. This may include community services, comprehensive counseling, or anything that shows that you have taken steps to clean up your case.

Your credit score

A credit check will show an owner your credit score, and that number, good or bad, will affect your apartment rental request in some way. A landlord wants to see evidence that a potential tenant will pay their rent on time and in full. Your credit score is a quick way for homeowners to assess this.

Various factors including student loan payments, credit card payment history, number of credit cards you have, loan requests, etc. affect your credit. Paying late bills regularly can be a reason why you are refused an apartment.

For many people, credit check is frustrating because it is just a number. In some cases, it does not provide an accurate explanation of your financial health. But don’t give up hope if you have a low credit score. Check for errors and work with consumer advocacy companies to get old or incorrect information removed from the report.

Above all, be honest about your credit score. If you have a score that is less than desirable, let the owner know what contributed to it and how you can fix it. Also, show the check stubs that prove you can stay on top of your monthly rent. As with all of these factors listed in a background check, honesty and responsibility will go a long way in convincing a landlord that you are the right tenant.

Ready to find your next home? Search thousands of apartments for rent on Zumper and prepare your background check; you have it.

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