Your Guide to What A Background Check Is

A background check is one of, if not the, most important part of a property manager’s job.  You can hire someone for day to day tasks, if your repair guy didn’t do a perfect job fixing the sink then you’ll survive, you have insurance for the big issues, blah, blah, blah, but background checks for rental housing? When you are looking for the perfect resident?

You don’t mess with a resident background check.

A background check is the one and only dam between you and the flood. A background check for housing is what will let you sleep peacefully at night. A background check for housing is the first step between you and success as a property manager. So, metaphors aside, what is it?

What Really Is a Background Check?

A background check covers a requested person’s history: have they committed criminal acts, what is their credit like, and can include previous renting.

  • Credit Report with credit score
  • Criminal History
  • Eviction History

Property managers can use this information to help select which residents they prefer. A proper background check can help them find the ideal person: someone with steady income, no previous convictions of violent acts, and no evictions. That’s why the background check, also known as resident screening, is so important. While criminal and eviction records can be complicated with growing concern (such as Cook County, Illinois’s recent legislation), it cannot be ignored. No one wants to find out later that their resident is prone to destructive acts of violence or property damage.

How Much Does it Cost?

The resident screening process can have a broad range from being nearly free with expensive software packages to however much the market is willing to support – sometimes upwards of $40 per report. It’s always of good mind to be wary of less expensive versions of background checks as they may or may not be Fair Credit Reporting Act compliant, or may provide the user with questionably reliable information.

What Is Required to Get a Background Check?

For your residents, reports require simple but accurate information. This includes full name, address(es), date of birth, social security number, and possibly other identifying information. This information is used to confirm who they are and the history that belongs to them, instead of someone who just has a similar or even the same name. This is important as you don’t want to accept or deny any potential residents based on past actions that are not theirs. It could not only spell legal troubles but even dangers if you get mixed up criminal histories. Once their identity has been verified, applicant screening services like CICReports will scour court data, eviction records, and more to give the information requested to the property manager. From there, one can make the decision: is this the resident that is right for your property?

That is why getting a proper, trustworthy background screening is so important. You have to be able to trust the people that live on your property beyond what a simple gut feeling can give you. The paper evidence not only gives you peace of mind, but the written proof that is available in court that shows you shouldn’t be liable. After all, all the paper evidence shows that you accepted their tenancy on the basis that they were good people. A good background check will help you decided that this person you want living on your property is a sound choice, who will pay rent on time.

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Nicole Seidner

Cole Seidner is a copywriter here at the CIC Blog. She holds a degree in Writing from Savannah College of Art and Design with a focus in creative nonfiction. Her free time is spent taking pictures of her dogs or reading deep dive analysis on movies that she hasn’t seen.

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