Do Landlords Do Background Checks?

By Michael Klazema on 10/14/2020

Background checks are a part of the housing application process for most landlords. From apartment complexes to rental houses, most tenants find that prospective landlords require a background check before they are willing to sign any lease agreement. In this post, we will explain the types of information that tenant background checks can reveal. 

Types of Tenant Background Checks 

The first thing to understand is that, when landlords do background checks, they typically aren’t running just one type of screening. Instead, landlords will compile their tenant background checks from a variety of different sources, which may include the following: 

  • Criminal history checks. Most housing background checks will start with a criminal history search. Landlords are interested in learning whether a prospective tenant has a criminal background because some of that information can indicate a risk to other tenants, property, or the landlord. In particular, expect landlords to keep an eye out for violent crimes, sexual offenses, convictions that indicate a history of destruction of property (arson, vandalism, etc.), and certain drug crimes (manufacturing meth, for example, or distribution of illegal substances). These crimes can indicate behaviors that most landlords will want to prevent on their properties.

  • Rental history. Through civil history checks and reference checks with former landlords, a landlord can learn whether a prospective tenant has a record of evictions, late or missed payments, property damage, or other property rental red flags.

  • Employment or financial status. Landlords will often run either employment verification checks or credit history checks to determine whether a tenant will be able to keep up with monthly rental payments. Employment checks provide assurance that the candidate has gainful employment and an income that can support the rent rate. Credit history checks give a sense of a person’s financial past and responsibility. Landlords may also require pay stubs or other proof of employment instead of an employment verification check.

At, we have partnered with TransUnion–one of the three major credit bureaus–to make tenant background checks more accessible to independent landlords throughout the United States. Our SmartMove check incorporates key elements including criminal history, income insights, and details on any past evictions. 

A Note on Housing Background Check Restrictions 

While landlords do background checks in most cases, that doesn’t mean these checks are free of restrictions. Critics of tenant background checks say that they create a near-impassable barrier for ex-offenders trying to rebuild their lives, increasing the likelihood of criminal recidivism and other consequences. In some parts of the country, legislative pushes have effectively banned housing background checks. In Oakland, California, for instance, an ordinance prohibits the use of criminal history checks in most housing application processes. Landlords need to be aware of the laws in their area to make sure that they are not committing noncompliance crimes by conducting due diligence checks. 

Contact if you have any questions about tenant background checks. We can answer questions on our SmartMove background checks, laws or ordinances that restrict tenant background checks, and more.

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