How To Do A Background Check in California

“How To Do A Background Check in California” written by Mike Marko

Are you a property manager residing in California? If you want to know how a background check in California works then I am here to help.

As a property manager in California, your property must be receiving lots of rental applications. So how do you screen through all those applicants to ensure the best tenant is selected? This is why a property manager needs to do a background check on potential tenants.

And that brings is to the top of today’s blog post: how to do a background check in California.

Conducting A Background Check In California

Knowing how to do a background check is a good start for a property manager. After all, it’s part of your duty to do background checks on your tenants.

Right now, the only thing you would worry about is how to do a background check.

In California, there are some things a property manager needs to know.

There’s no need to worry!

California background checks are not hard to do. You just need to do some things before you start.

California Background Check

Okay, so you may be wondering the difference when doing a background check in California versus the usual background checks. In California, rules for doing background checks are a bit relaxed compared to other States in the USA.

Prior to doing any background checks you must first have a signed application from the possible tenants authorizing you to do a complete background check as part of the rental process.

After you got that there are specific things and regulations that are State to State.


California has a limited time and history that information may be kept on individuals.

In some cases, you cannot get information about a person because too much time has passed. There are times that information cannot be used depending on how old the information is or if the information has been updated in the systems being checked. Below you can see some of the limitations that can apply when doing a background check in California.

This happens when (but not limited to):

  • There’s an arrest for the person wanting to rent your property.
  • There’s a limit for information that is usable.
  • Any arrest or detention that did not result in conviction shall be expunged (the process of cleaning up a background check).
  • Only convictions within the past 7 years can be used.
  • Misdemeanors and felony are not differentiated in the state of California.
  • Criminal records or a criminal check in California only shows crimes that go back 7 years wherein conviction is also included.


Just like any background check, a background check in California also has some specific requirements. Is there a lot of it?

Nothing much…really!

But remember that we are talking about information here. As a property manager, you gather relevant and important information about your potential tenant.
As such, I have a super short list of some of the requirements needed by property managers when doing a background check.

Here is some of the state of California’s requirements for doing a background check.

Written consent of the tenant for you to run a background

Fingerprint analysis is required for a full background check but not required to rent a property in California.

Fingerprint Analysis

Fingerprint analysis is a common tool used in doing a background check in California. This fingerprint analysis is the most updated tool the state of California uses for employment screening and background checks.

How does the fingerprint analysis work? Here are some steps that can help you further understand how it works. Consider being in the shoes of the applicant for this steps.

Here it goes.

  1. Provision to the applicant of the BCIA 8016, Request For Live Scan Service Form.
  2. The applicant must complete the form with all the information needed and will then take it to a live scan operator. Note that only a certified fingerprint roller or qualified law enforcement personnel can perform the fingerprinting.
  3. The live scan operator now checks the information given by the applicant, inputs all the information, and captures the applicant’s fingerprints electronically.
  4. All information along with the fingerprints will be transferred to the state’s DOJ.
  5. The applicant shall then be provided with an application transaction identifier or the ATI.
  6. The DOJ now will run a search against all the fingerprints in their database. If no fingerprints matched the applicant then transaction shall be processed electronically (within 48-72 hours).
  7. If there is a match in the fingerprint, a technician will review the RAP sheet manually and may take an indeterminate amount of time.

Number 7 here means that there is a match in the DOJ’s database of criminal records. This may take a while because the DOJ technician will search for all possible leads for the corresponding disposition of each arrest.

If such disposition exists, the technician shall apply the dissemination criterion for the applicant. This criterion is statutorily mandated for the applicant type. The technician will then do a background check and will send the response electronically or via a hard copy email.

The same procedure will apply if there is no fingerprint that matches in the DOJ’s criminal history database. The background check of the applicant will be sent either electronically or via hard copy email whichever the applicant prefers.

Due to the extensive procedures required to complete a fingerprinting background check, the costs can be rather expensive.

Since rental properties don’t require the fingerprint background check and the expensive cost to complete, it is normally left out of the process of renting a property to an individual.

Third-Party Credit Check In California

A credit check is an aspect of a background check that can be done to a tenant through his financial information. If a property manager decides to use a third-party to run a credit check, the property manager must comply with Federal and California’s state law.

They include:

  • The federal Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA)
  • California Investigative Consumer Reporting Agencies Act (ICRAA)
  • California Consumer Credit Reporting Agencies Act (CCRAA)

Final Thoughts About Background Check in California

A background check in California is not that challenging. It’s very similar to background checks in other states. There’s only the part of the fingerprint analysis that is needed for you to run a FULL background check (like for employment).

If you have any questions or comments about conducting a background check in California, please feel free to comment below.




Suggested Articles:
1. 7 Key Tips On How To Do A Background Check
2. How To Run A Credit Check For Property Managers
3. What Are The Best Credit Report Sites?

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Article: How To Do A Background Check in California

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