The 9 Best Background Check Tips

“The 9 Best Background Check Tips” written by Mike Marko

Have you ever had an “undesirable” tenant? You know what I mean. That tenant that either doesn’t pay the rent on time… or worse destroys the property? 

Just thinking about it can send many property managers into a cold sweat.

There are things you can do to help reduce the probability of these “undesirable” tenants ruining your day (and life)… that’s why today I want to share my top tips on how to do the best background check.

The Best Background Check Tips

Most problems with tenants begin because of the renter either:

  • Was not flapped because there were no indications that they could have been a bad renter.  
  • The background check you did was not thorough.  Was not put through the best background available to you and thus became a problem renter.

And the end result is an “undesirable” tenant moves into your rental property.

So can you minimize the risk of renting to an undesirable renter?

The Answer Is Easier Than You Think

As property managers and landlords, there are many steps that you can take to avoid having a bad experience with your tenants. By utilizing the following best background check tips, you can minimize your risk of renting to an unqualified or undesirable renter.

Let’s try to get the most qualified and problem free renters on the market!

To help you set up the best background check you can, I have put together 8 tips that can significantly reduce the risk of finding bad renters for your rental properties.

Make Sure That You Ask The Right Questions

Every possible renter comes to you with a clean slate. Having multiple conversations with them via phone or in person is the first step to conducting the best background check.

Every time you have a meeting or a phone conversation with the potential renter this will help you prequalify the tenant and determine first if you like the tenant and secondly if you can work with this person if they become your renter. When you have the opportunity to talk with prospective renters you must make sure you ask the questions you need to be answered to identify the tenant’s personality and possible issues that may arise in the future…

By doing a complete interview you can determine that this is someone you would or would not likely rent to if they answer your questions in a negative or positive way.

During the process of the interview, I would suggest that you make sure that you don’t assume anything about the rental candidate. Just follow your interview questions making notes to help determine if they qualify for your rental property. Always look out for inconsistencies in answers as this will help your determination in the long run.

Suggested questions during a tenant best background check

  • When are you planning to move in?
  • Have you talked to your previous landlord?
  • How secure is your job/work?
  • How is your credit report?
  • Do you think you can pay consistently?
  • What is your maximum budget?
  • How many bedrooms do you need?
  • Do you have pets?
  • How many people are living with you?
  • What will other adults be on the lease with you?
  • What is your worst landlord experience?

Let Them Talk

Communication is a two-way process and having the candidate talk will help you uncover everything.

Just be quiet and listen after asking a question.  They will fill up the “dead air”.

Let him talk about his experiences with his previous landlord, etc.

If the candidate happens to talk about all the negativity that his previous landlords have, then that is the sign that he might also do the same thing to you (his next landlord). I recommend disqualifying them if he raises a red flag at this stage.

Making good conversations and engagement will definitely help you know who your potential tenant really is. Application forms are just secondary documents to identify if he will be consistent with everything they say. Having this conversation will also help you know how the candidate deals with the future conflict.

Look For Suspicious Signs

As part of doing the best background check, you should also have extra detective works. Doing just a typical background check will only get you so far in trying to prevent bad tenants.

You have to be extra careful in choosing the perfect tenant. We want to avoid those bad tenants who know how to deceive their landlords by lying about their identities just to get the application approved. Shortly after they get the property that’s when the trouble starts. So let’s be extra careful and look for a sign right ahead before you regret.

I have examples of signs you should watch out during the background check:

Rushing To Move In.  

If the candidate wants to make everything processed and move in right away, you should be curious and ask what’s the rush?  Are you giving your past landlord 30-days notice?

A good tenant would normally search for a rental property for at least four to ten weeks before they need one. Often the reason they give for needing a property right away is a good reason to reject the applicant.  

Whatever the reason, you need to be cautious. There might be a reason why they need the property right away. Make sure to filter and ask questions as to why they need the property badly.

The Tenant Is Too Perfect.

If the candidate is way too perfect… saying everything you wanna hear… then take the moment to pause.

Sure they may be telling you the truth.  But you need to do some detective work to see if there are holes in their story.  

Confirm their Identity Online

After conducting phone and face to face interviews, it’s time to confirm that the person you have been talking to and meeting is really that person.  Proper background checking is an essential part of implementing a best background check process.  You can use an online service to do a verification of the potential renters.

The best way to find online verification services in your area is to google or bing online identity verification. Do some research on each company you find and choose the most favorable from reviews. Additionally, check out potential online services on scam sites so you don’t get scammed by a fake service. We recommend the Top1Score service for a complete scoring and underwriting solution as well as for an online background check service, especially if you are managing a lot of properties or apartments.  

You can also use search engines to do some background check of your own about the tenant.  Have you ever tried to Google your own name? 🙂

Research Employer Numbers

Part of the best background check process is calling the potential renters’ employer. Don’t trust that the renter gave you the correct employer phone number. Instead look online for the employer’s phone numbers, call the main corporate of business line and ask to speak with human resources about doing a renter background check.

By going online or through the phone book to identify the best phone number to call, you will avoid a fake renters employee reference.

Let me explain. Sometimes a potential renter will give you their best friend to call as a reference instead of a real employer. The renter will do this to try and trick you into believing that they have a better job than they really have or that they are a better employee than they really are.

So if you just trustingly take the renter at their word and don’t research the phone numbers they give you then you could get scammed into thinking this person is the best employee ever.

By getting the phone number online will help you avoid calling a scammer or not the true employer of the potential renter.

So when developing the best background check possible my advice to you is to never use the phone number the candidate provided you to check out their current or past employment.

Validate the Present And Past Landlords

You’ll never know if the candidate’s information about their landlords is correct without checking and validating. One good way to do this is to get your Realtor or lawyer to conduct a land registry check on the addresses belonging to the candidate’s previous landlords. This will identify how consistent the candidate is in providing information.

Call The Past and Present Landlords

A crucial part of any best background check process is to contact the candidate’s landlord and verify information.  But don’t just call the present landlord: that landlord may give a great recommendation just to be rid of that troublesome tenant.

Call at least two previous landlords if you can.  

Keep the questions to the landlords brief and to the point.  Ask if they paid the rent on time and if they damaged the property.  

But before you ask anything, I use a little trick.  When I call them I ask “Do you have any rental property?” early on.  I’ve been able to catch some “false” landlords because of the question.  I then introduce who I am to the landlord and get started.

Determine Capability of the Candidate to Pay

Probably the most important item in doing the best background check is determining if the rental candidate can afford to rent and that they will be able to pay on time and consistently. TO determine if the rental candidate can pay the rent required you have to consider how much they earn, their current liabilities and how their spending habits as reflected through the Credit check.

When assessing the ability to pay rent you also have to consider the cause of living where the property is located. Do they make enough income at their job to afford the rent? Do they have enough assets or ability to cover rent if they lose their job?

Taking in all of these factors helps in building the best background check, each will help do a final determination if you have found the most qualified renter to rent your property.

Photo Identity

The last part of my tips to the best background check process is to check for their photo identity. Ask the candidate for photo identification before you have them sign the lease. This is during the meet up on where you are already finalizing everything with them.

Final Thoughts On The Best Background Check Tips

Doing a thorough check using our best background check tips will significantly help reduce the chances of an “undesirable” tenant.  Not, of course, we can’t say you’ll eliminate all chances of one getting through and nesting into your rental property… but it will help build up your defense.  I expect this article has shed some light on things you can do for your own property management due diligence.  

If you find this helpful please comment down below and share my article.  Thanks!




Suggested Articles:
1. Renter’s Background Check
2. Things To Know When Managing Commercial Rentals
3. Should I Have Wood Flooring or Carpet in a Rental Property?

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Article: The 9 Best Background Check Tips


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