How to Conduct a Rental History Check: A Guide for Landlords

Rental History Check

A thorough vetting process is crucial when it comes to selecting the best applicant as your tenant and this process should always include a rental history check. You don’t know the history of the person who is seeking to sign a lease, which is why your application process should include a background check, credit reports, proof of income, criminal history, eviction history and contacting previous landlords. 

These steps are necessary and can protect you from a potentially expensive/problematic tenant(s). Though we cannot always sniff out a potentially bad tenant, we can increase our chances of finding a great tenant by performing our due diligence. Thorough vetting can save you costly consequences, ranging from property damage to eviction. 

Now, have you thought of performing a rental history check? This piece of information can give you a deeper look into an applicant’s rental behavior, including crucial components such as any damages incurred, whether the lease agreement was broken and if rent was paid on time. 

Keep on reading to find out what exactly a rental history check is, and why it needs to be on your radar. 

What is a Rental History Check?

As the name suggests, a rental history check generates a report that lists all of the previous addresses that an individual has rented. The report includes previous landlords’ contact information or that of the overseeing property manager during their tenancy. 

Benefits of Conducting a Rental History Check

Though you may think a credit report arms you with the necessary information, it’s just as likely that it leaves out essential elements of a tenant’s history. Thus, such a report gives you deeper insight and understanding of what this person’s property rental behavior has been like. Here are four specific benefits of conducting a rental history check:

  • Avoid evictions: A rental history check will tell you whether or not the applicant has previously been evicted, and in some instances, whether they have been evicted multiple times. You’ll have to conduct a thorough eviction check. If there is a history of evictions that seems to span across different time periods, it’s a nudge that you might want to think twice before letting the tenant sign a lease.
  • Minimize late payments: In addition to eviction history, a rental history check can give you information about tardy rent payments (or even outstanding payments). It’s up to you to decide whether one or two occasions of lateness sway your thoughts on the person, but if you see a consistent pattern of overdue rent, you will likely experience the same behavior.
  • Save yourself from property damage: If a tenant left previous rentals in poor condition, a rental history check can potentially tell you that. Instead of taking a risk, only to incur steep repair costs upon move-out, this preventative measure can give you peace of mind that the next tenant isn’t likely to harm your property.

How to Conduct a Rental History Check

If you’re eager to implement a rental history check into your tenant vetting process, you’d probably like to know how to get started. We’ll walk you through the steps.

Have a Tenant Provide Rental History

This must be requested in accordance with your state or local laws. So make sure to check them beforehand. First off, informing the applicant that you will require rental history information is a good thing to do. Request addresses of previous rental locations, as well as the contact information of previous landlords. 

A tenant information release form should be attached to your rental applications. This is a legal document that gives you the authorization to review the tenant’s rental history. Such information may include payment history, rental amounts previously paid, and the length of their residency.

Review a Tenant’s Rental History

When you are reviewing the information that has been provided to you, keep an eye out for any time gaps and ask the applicant about it. There may be a good reason why they did not rent for a period of time. Further, look out for omitted or missing information. 

For example, the applicant provides a street name but leaves out the number. Another flag is if no previous landlord contact information has been provided. Such discrepancies can indicate your applicant may be hiding something, or that they would prefer if you did not communicate with previous landlords. 

Check Landlord References

Follow up with the previous landlords that your applicant has listed. A phone call can tell you a lot about the person, and most importantly, you can learn whether or not the applicant is reliable.

Inquire previous landlords about their timeliness with rent payments, whether the property was taken care of properly, and the tenant’s communication style. This phone call shouldn’t take all that long, but it is important that you ask specific questions that matter most to you as a landlord.  

Note Any Discrepancies and Check Up on Evictions

If you’re wondering how you can be sure of the applicant’s provided rental history, it is by comparing it to an eviction history check. You’ll want to know if the applicant has been previously evicted. It’s important to ensure that you don’t overlook this important step, as it will help you identify any red flags.

What If a Prospect Doesn’t Have a Rental History?

Sometimes tenants don’t have a rental history. For example, recent college grads or those who have served in the military or live at home. For those tenants, you’ll need to use personal and professional references to gauge their ability to be a great tenant.

Furthermore, look at the other pieces of information, such as their credit report or proof of income, to determine this person’s eligibility. If you want to rent to them, but need a little extra insurance, require a cosigner to reduce your risk.

Key Takeaways

Landlords should always conduct thorough vetting for prospective tenants. The benefits are enormous, and the cost of not being tenacious about this can be very high. Avoid evictions, have peace of mind, and know who you are letting sign their name on the dotted line. Preventative measures lead to better outcomes, and in this scenario, there are ample pieces of information that can inform you about the applicant.