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6 Things to Look For in Tenant Background Checks

As a landlord, you know how important it is that you have good tenants. The right tenants take care of your property and maintain good relationships with law enforcement and neighbors. Bad tenants can cost you a lot of money and headaches.

You should be running a tenant background check on everyone you consider. Once you do, there are a handful of signs to watch out for as you evaluate potential renters, some positive and some negative.

Warning signs

You already know to look at your potential tenant’s criminal record, credit history, and previous rental history. What you might not realize is that there are a few more subtle signs you should keep an eye out for.

Moving often: 
Even if the tenant checks out otherwise in every way, you should be wary of anyone who has been moving around a lot. Some people, like military personnel, have to move frequently frequently because of work. In that case, there’s no reason not to rent, but you should be aware that you might not go through the whole lease before they have to leave.

What you need to be careful about is renters who move frequently for unclear reasons. These might be people who just can’t get along with their landlord.

Employment gaps: Even with a great credit history, it is concerning to see long employment gaps. There might be a legitimate explanation, and you should always ask. But if your potential tenant doesn’t have reliable income, you need to know about this before you hand them the lease.

Lots of job changes: Some people just need some time to find the job that’s right for them. Other people are unreliable. If they’re unreliable in their professional life, there’s a good chance they’ll be unreliable as renters too. To check employment histories, try using LinkedIn.

Positive notes

Some things that show up in your tenant’s history are warning signs, but other things could be indications that you’re dealing with a reliable and responsible person.

Plenty of personal references: Someone with nothing to hide will be happy to connect you with their friends, family, and employers. You may find connections to churches, non-profits, or community action groups. Someone who cannot provide references for you to follow up on may be untrustworthy.

In some cases, you may be dealing with a person who has been abroad for a long time, and in that case there’s no reason to worry. But if someone has been in the US for many years and cannot provide good references, you should take a second look.

Stable employment: Employers do not like to hunt for a new employee, but they also get rid of dead weight. If someone has a long employment history with one company, this is usually a good indication that the person in question is reliable and stable. That’s precisely the sort of person you want renting your property.

If someone has jumped between jobs frequently, this could be a sign that they are not stable and reliable. Be sure to ask about why they have made these changes. It could all be fine: a successful swing trading specialist might not have a traditional history, for example, but they very likely have income. Still, it’s always worth checking out.

Rental history: If you’re looking at a younger rental applicant, you might find that he or she doesn’t have a very long history of renting. That’s fine and to be expected. If someone is older, however, you will want to find out their rental history and how they related to previous landlords. 

Be aware that when a landlord is dealing with truly awful tenants, they may falsify positive information in order to get rid of that tenant. You should also be aware that sometimes the landlord is wrong and the tenant is right. If you have any questions, don’t be afraid to dig more deeply.