What to Ignore in a Background Check

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As a landlord, you have a vested interest in knowing who your tenants are. It’s important to get a good background check before you rent your property. But as you get your background checks, it’s also important to know what to ignore. Some things are obvious red flags, but others aren’t, so here’s how to tell the difference.

It’s too emotional

Imagine that you call up a former landlord or boss of your tenant applicant. As soon as you explain why you’re calling, the person erupts into a rant about how horrible the potential tenant is. Could this all be true? Of course it could, but it could also be that your potential tenant is a perfectly lovely person who fell in with some totally dysfunctional people.

Some tenants are awful, but some landlords are truly awful too. Always be suspicious if you get a strong emotional reaction from a reference. A good landlord with a bad tenant should have clear, sensible reasons why they ended the relationship. A bad landlord may dissolve into hostile comments.

What’s bad for others might be good for you

If you call a former employer and find out that they hated your potential tenant, try to find out why. A boss might have disliked an employee because that employee was too finicky, nitpicky, or exacting. While that might not have worked in the applicant’s former job, it might work out beautifully for you.

When you run a rental background check free of charge and find a complaint about a person being too much of a perfectionist, this could actually signal that you have an applicant who cares about the little things and will keep your property in perfect condition.

You get different stories

Often, when we get varying perspectives, we tend to believe the worst story. The smart move is to compare stories and find out who is telling the truth. If you have one person telling you that a potential tenant is a nightmare and three people who say they’re a gem, the first one might have a vendetta. That said, if they all agree that your applicant is a troublemaker, then cross them right off your list.

The story is really old

Everyone has done something stupid at some point in their lives. If you’re considering a 30-year-old family man with a stable job, and you find out that he walked out of McDonald’s mid-shift back when he was 18, this probably isn’t anything to be concerned with.

As a rule of thumb, any issues over ten years old aren’t really worth worrying about, unless they’re part of a pattern or involved violence. And don’t forget that a 30-year-old tenant simply has more history for you to find out about than a 21-year-old tenant.

The offense isn’t violent

America is a litigious society, and we incarcerate a greater percentage of our population than any modern state on Earth. Lots of convictions are for “process crimes”, and this shouldn’t necessarily be a concern in itself. This is quite a different thing from a conviction for a violent crime, so dig a little deeper to find out if you should be concerned.

You’ve found a name twin

Before you throw someone off your list, make sure that the information you have found is really about them. There are lots of stories where people with similar names were mixed up, and if you have a promising applicant, it’s always worth that extra moment to make sure you’ve got the right person.

A background check is a powerful tool. Just make sure you’re using it to best advantage.