Landlord Credit Bureau

How to Check Rental History

How to Check Rental History

What Every Landlord and Property Manager Needs to Know

Table of Contents

Choosing the Right Tenant

One of the most important decisions a Housing Provider can make is which Tenant to choose. Finding the right fit can mean the difference between a positive rental experience and a negative one, for both parties. However, for the Housing Provider, a miss step during the Tenant selection process could be a costly mistake.  With the average eviction costing $11,000 and months of stress, a Housing Provider really needs to be sure. 

Before selecting a new Tenant, it’s important to consider certain factors. These can include financial stability, references from previous Landlords, criminal background checks, a rental history report, and any other information that might be relevant. You’ll also want to evaluate whether a prospective Tenant is likely to respect the terms of the lease agreement, for most this includes paying rent on time and treating the property with respect.  

Fortunately, Housing Providers can feel more confident once they learn how to check rental history, as it typically reflects a Tenants past rental habits. Making a rental decision can be complicated, but knowing someone’s renting history beforehand provides an invaluable peace of mind. Ultimately, you want to make sure you’re selecting a Tenant who is responsible and reliable so that you can avoid costly evictions down the road. 

What is a Rental History Report?

Making sure to check rental history is just one part of the process for Housing Providers when choosing a Tenant. However, it is an important step in finding the right fit for their property. By taking the time to evaluate a potential Tenant’s rental history, you can increase the likelihood of having a successful and stress-free renting experience.  

People tend to be creatures of habit. Unfortunately, sometimes those habits are something a Housing Provider will want to avoid. A Tenant’s renting history is a snapshot of how the Tenant handled their responsibilities under previous lease agreements. It can include basic information like the Tenant’s rent payment history, whether they caused damage and lost their security deposit, and whether the Tenant left early. 

Discovering the Tenant’s rental history assists Landlords and Property Managers in avoiding common risks, like renting to someone who already has been evicted multiple times for nonpayment of rent. The rental history report can also provide some peace of mind to Housing Providers that they are selecting a Tenant who is likely to abide by the conditions of the lease agreement to maintain a respectful relationship. 

How to Check Rental History: 5 Easy Steps

Step 1: Prequalify the Rental Applicant

The first communication with the rental applicant typically is a phone conversation with the Landlord or Property Manager in response to an ad. During the conversation, Housing Providers can use a prequalification process to determine if they should move forward in considering this person as a potential Tenant. New or inexperienced Landlords sometimes make the mistake of rushing this call and immediately scheduling the applicant to see the property. But in that rush to fill a vacancy, those Landlords may miss a crucial opportunity to evaluate the Tenant’s rental history. 

In that initial communication, Landlords need to establish if the applicant meets the qualifications for the property, like sufficient income. Also, the Landlord needs to get basic information like current address, how long the Tenant has lived in the current property, and when the Tenant is planning to move. The answers to these questions can be compared to subsequent communications and the information provided in the rental application. 

Any inconsistencies between what the applicant says in the initial phone call and in later communications or the rental application are a sign that the applicant might be hiding something — possibly a bad rental history. This is a red flag that should not be ignored and should prompt the Landlord to take the extra step of verifying this person’s renting history. 

Step 2: A Completed Rental Application

A rental application provides pertinent information like previous addresses and previous Landlord references. The application also includes a declaration that the information is accurate and complete and provides consent to Conduct a thorough background check on the Tenant. This may include speaking to references, doing a credit check, and investigating the Tenant’s rental history further. Without that consent, the Landlord cannot effectively screen the applicant. 

A rental applicant with a positive renting history will likely provide all the requested information with no discrepancies, and they are likely to include references from previous Landlords. While a rental applicant with a bad renting history is likely to avoid answering questions that might lead to being rejected, so an incomplete application is a red flag. 

Step 3: Verify the Previous Address History

Once a completed application has been received, pay careful attention to the applicant’s previous addresses. A typical rental application matches the previous addresses to the previous Landlords. You may choose to ask for copies of previous leases and/or contact the previous Landlords or Property Managers from each listed address.  

Also, check the dates for any unexplained gaps. These can be anything from memory errors to a Tenant who skipped out on rent to an eviction caused by non-payment of rent. Pay attention to leases that ended at a strange interval. Ask the applicant to explain any issues. 

Step 4: Contact the References

One of the most important parts of a rental history check is a conversation with the current and previous Landlords. It will yield the most information about the Tenant’s behavior as a renter. 

Prepare a list of questions in advance of the conversation. This not only saves time but ensures that key points are covered before the reference needs to end the call. In addition to asking the Landlords about their experience with the Tenant, also ask questions like:

  • Were there any issues with rent or late payments?
  • Did they give proper notice before moving out? 
  • Did they keep the rental property in good condition?
  • Was there ever an issue with noise, pets or illegal activity?

These questions can provide insight into the Tenant’s rental behavior and whether they will make a good Tenant. For a full list of questions to ask an applicant check out FrontLobby’s article on the “14 Best Pre-Screening Questions for Tenant Applications“. 

Savvy Property Managers know that problem Tenants do not like them to speak to the current or previous Landlords. Tenant’s may dodge this process by failing to provide contact information or offering fake references. Some unscrupulous business websites offer to pose as a Landlord or employer reference for a fee. 

To avoid that trap, independently verify the phone number, meet the Landlord at the property, or do a bit of research and come up with a question that a poser is not likely to know, like “When did you buy the property?”. 

Step 5: Pull a Credit Report and Check the Landlord Credit Bureau Database

If the applicant is otherwise qualified and the references confirm a good renting history, the final step is to run Tenant screening reports. This includes checking the Tenant’s credit, running a background check, and searching the Landlord Credit Bureau Database. Once you have received all of the reports, take some time to review them carefully. 

A credit report can show financial stability, past eviction filings, and court judgments. It’s important to remember that the Tenant’s score does not necessarily need to be excellent – but it should demonstrate a good payment history. If the previous Landlord reported rent payments to Credit Bureaus, you will see a rental tradeline on the Tenant’s credit report. This tradeline is specific to rent payments and will indicate if rent was paid on time or remains outstanding.  

A criminal background check is also a good option to ensure that nothing in the applicant’s past will put the Landlord or other residents in harm.  

As an excellent resource for Housing Providers, the Landlord Credit Bureau maintains a database of verified Tenant Records. The LCB verifies the identity of each Landlord prior to accepting Tenant Records to prevent the fraudulent references prevalent in the rental housing industry today. As a result, LCB Tenant Records are uniquely valuable for Landlords when screening applicants and for helping Tenants access housing by showing a positive rental history despite any poor credit or no credit. 

For Housing Providers looking to search the Landlord Credit Bureau database, try FrontLobby. Their Tenant screening tools include a Tenant Record search from LCB. The LCB database, which includes rent payment history as well as delinquencies, can indicate high risk applicants while confirming applicants who are a low risk for paying late or defaulting on rent. 

By completing all five steps, you can make an informed decision about a potential Tenant. A comprehensive rental history check provides Property Managers with the assurance that a qualified Tenant will be renting their property and that they have a good chance of making reliable rent payments.  Therefore, it’s important to take the time to verify each applicant thoroughly before signing any lease agreement. That way when you find your next ideal Tenant, you can rest assured that you’ve taken the proper steps to make sure they’re a good fit for your property.  

Disclaimer The information provided in this post is not intended to be construed as legal advice, nor should it be considered a substitute for obtaining individual legal counsel or consulting your local, state, federal or provincial tenancy laws.

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