If you've ever applied to live in an apartment or rental house, you're probably familiar with background checks.
Almost all landlords and property managers will require that a potential tenant subject themselves to a background check before they're approved for residency.
A background check is a comprehensive term for a number of different record searches, including your criminal, residence and employment histories. You might be wondering exactly what info is available to managers when they run a background check on prospective tenants, and the answer is it will vary. This info is generalized as each different background check service will have slightly different results.
One of the most frequently asked about subjects in reference to background checks is about criminal history. It also will vary. Some states don't allow criminal conviction history to be a basis for denying housing and some do. And some states either don't allow criminal convictions to be considered by managers or don't have across-the-board laws.
If you're a person with a criminal conviction record that was expunged or sealed, those convictions shouldn't show up on a background check. Criminal charges that are dropped or that result in a not-guilty conviction usually will show up on a background check, so landlords and property managers must be responsible in efforts to avoid discrimination and bias when examining background check results.
Motor vehicle infractions and driving convictions are typically not available in standard background checks. Those records can usually only be retrieved through a motor vehicle history check, which is used mostly for employment that involves driving a company vehicle. However, felony and misdemeanor convictions that are driving-related will show up on a background check as a part of the criminal history report.
There's information outside of the records kept by government agencies that can be found in background checks like employment verification, professional reference checks and education credential verification.
When a background check is requested on your behalf that includes employment history verification, it usually involves your past employers (usually HR staff) being contacted. There are no federal regulations about what employers can or can't disclose about their previous employees, so make sure you're completely honest on your application.
Many background checks will also check your professional references. This is either done by the landlord, property manager or by the company conducting the background check. It's usually just a call to whoever you've listed as a professional reference. Again, there's no standard or guideline pertaining to what can be discussed by your professional references.
Lastly, another thing that could be verified during the course of a background check is your education history. It isn't often that an education history check is required for renting an apartment or home, but this could come up in student housing or affordable housing situations. This is used to confirm that you actually have the level of education you claim, too.
Another highly important aspect of a background check that you're probably very familiar with is your credit check. Most of the info returned through a background check (the information not obtained through manual interviews) comes from one of the three major credit bureaus anyway, so it makes sense that your credit score info would show up.
The score that you need to be approved for a rental will vary from landlord to landlord. Regardless, it's important that you know what info will be returned when a background check is requested for you.
You can always check your credit score on your own to get an idea of where you lie. Your credit score is made up of several different variables, each carrying a different weight:
It's likely that a background check will be required in some form before you're approved to rent an apartment. Landlords or property managers are simply looking to ensure they rent their units to responsible people, who will take care of the property and pay their rent on time.