A Landlord's Guide to Understanding Criminal Checks

As a landlord, it is only natural for you to want to know more about an applicant before deciding to rent your property to that person.

  • Friday, November 8, 2013

  General   Tenant Screening   Criminal & Eviction Checks   

As a landlord, it is only natural for you to want to know more about an applicant before deciding to rent your property to that person. In order to accidentally avoid renting your property to an undesirable tenant, a criminal background check can provide you with the information you need to make a decision. This type of check is completely lawful and can include a wealth of information about your applicant, including personal information, lawsuit history, and criminal history. Ultimately, this information can assist you in determining the applicant's trustworthiness.

In most instances, a criminal record will include any criminal offenses that have not been expunged from the individual's record. As such, it will also typically include traffic offenses, including drunk driving and speeding.

In the event that the individual has been arrested, the report will contain an explanation of the end result, including any convictions and sentences that were received. Not guilty verdicts, dismissals, and bench warrant statuses will also be listed. Any alias names and probation or parole violations will be noted on the report, as well. In addition, the report will include any differences regarding the individual's dates of birth or social security numbers that have been used.

Criminal records are maintained in the United States by law enforcement agencies by every level of government ranging from the federal government to local sheriffs' departments and police departments. Law enforcement agencies will typically share this type of information with other agencies. In addition, this information will often be made available to the public.

In most instances, the only group that is not subjected to the release of criminal information is juveniles. Non-disclosure of criminal information may also be required in the case of some adults in the event that records have been sealed or the record has been expunged.

In some states, there are repositories where criminal record information is contributed by courts throughout that state. Such repositories are typically quite accurate provided that it is supervised. Reporting and supervision may only be voluntary in some states, however. As a result, information contained from such repositories could potentially be incomplete. In addition, the federal government also maintains its own criminal history repository that is quite extensive. The National Crime Information Center (NCIC) typically does not make its records available to the public.

At VerticalRent, we provide comprehensive criminal record searches. As a landlord, it is imperative that you make a point of understanding your own local state laws and ensure that you follow them accordingly when requesting criminal record searches. You should also be aware of your legal responsibilities regarding the notification of applicants if you decide to decline a rental application. Additionally, you should be aware of any exceptions that may apply that might prohibit you from turning down an applicant based on the information in the report. While most consumer reporting agencies scrub data, as do we, it should be understood that such agencies are not able to guarantee the accuracy of the data.

Disclaimer: The common sense tips in this blog entry should not be construed as legal advice. These are guidelines that will help you as a landlord, property manager, or tenant screening provider. Local laws and regulations may differ in your area. Be sure to consult with an attorney before rejecting an applicant and ensure you are following fair housing laws.


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