When it comes to screening tenants, you cannot be too careful. Over 60% of landlords feel that a criminal background check is more important over a credit check. Background checks allow you to find out more about your potential tenant, and if they will be a good fit for your rental unit. Screening tenants for criminal history allow landlords to know about the history of a person, and if the future will be a reflection of their past. For a person who has multiple arrests and is in and out of prison and jail, it’s more likely this pattern will continue compared to someone arrested once and hasn’t had any additional issues since that time.

Establishing a thorough tenant screening process is the most important thing a landlord can do. A good screening process includes:
Use online rental listings to provide clear information to tenants, and to have access to a larger pool of prospective tenants.
Meet tenants in person and ask the right questions so you can watch for red flags.
Use a legal, and valid rental application.
Always verify tenant income and employment.
Ask tenants to authorize and then analyze a credit report.
Require tenants to authorize a criminal background check.

Why Background Checks are Important

When a landlord starts to lease or rent property, one of the important elements in taking on this responsibility to keep the neighbors and the community safe. Who are you allowing into your property, and will they be an asset to the property and community? A landlord has the obligation to avoid putting others at risk. In fact, 22% of rental applicants had a hit on their criminal history in 2015. Since that is close to a quarter of the people applying for housing, it pays for landlords to conduct a criminal background check.

Landlords are dealing with tenants in a number of different ways from late payments, to those that are putting others at-risk. Liability protection is another important reason why it is important for landlords to know who is renting their unit. If the criminal history shows that a person has the ability to put others at “reasonable concern” and can reject the application. For example, allowing someone with a shoplifting conviction to rent a unit could put the other tenants at-risk as they could possibly steal from them. Landlords do need to be aware that if you do skip a background check, you will be liable if there is something that goes wrong. Being sued for negligence is something that could cause you to lose everything! Hiring a property management company is one of the best options as they do have the tools and resources needed to ensure the tenants are the right ones for the unit.

Landlords do need to protect themselves in the event of rejecting an applicant for criminal history. It is important to prove that the decision was made to ensure safety for the property and the community. Criminal history can be used if it is clear the person could put other at-risk. Maintain records of the criminal history check as it may be needed in the future for any disputes that occur with Fair Housing.

Keyrenter Property Management in Hampton Roads, VA, focuses on providing fair and equal housing opportunities for landlords and tenants alike. Our team ensures that each applicant undergoes a criminal history check, and a thorough investigation is completed to find the person that will not be a risk for the property and other tenants.