Most landlords perform background checks on potential tenants. Before running a background check, have applicants fill out a tenant Background Check Authorization Form to get their permission to conduct the investigation.
You can do this on our templated document, which also helps you gather the information necessary to screen your applicant.
When providing the tenant background check form, tell the potential renter what checks you will run and how you may use the results. Your investigation can provide valuable details to make your applicant search more efficient and successful.
What Is a Tenant Background Check Authorization Form?
A tenant background check form is a document landlords use to gather information before screening applicants who want to lease a rental property.
Before conducting any screenings, a landlord must have all applicants fill out the same background check authorization form.
A tenant background check form, sometimes known as a tenant screening form, serves three primary purposes:
- Allows the landlord to collect information about the applicant to run the background check
- Informs the applicant about which checks the property owner will run
- Gives the landlord express permission to perform the background check and use the results to objectively select a tenant
What Does a Rental Background Check Form Consist Of?
A rental background check form template typically contains three essential parts:
Requesting the applicant’s personal information helps you conduct your search. The applicant should give you details, such as:
- Name – Ask for basic information like the applicant’s full name and do not forget to ask for any previously used names, such as a maiden name.
- Contact information – Request the applicant’s current address, phone number, and email address to help confirm identity and filter search results. This information also assists you in contacting the prospective renter with your decision.
- Social security number – A social security number will make any background check much more efficient. No law prohibits landlords from requiring a tenant to give a social security number.
- Driver’s license number – Driver’s license numbers also enhance background check results by confirming identity.
Do not ask about disability, race, color, religion, national origin, age, gender, marital status, sexual orientation, or familial status. These questions violate the Fair Housing Act and many state and local laws.
Inform the applicant that you will use their personal information on the background check form to obtain and check records concerning many areas of their background.
These may include information such as:
- Financial information, such as bank and credit accounts
- Consumer credit report
- Rental history
- Employment history and income
- Criminal background
- Legal history
Disclosing the types of records you will check and how you will use them may prevent complaints or legal action if you decide not to rent to an applicant based on information obtained during the background check.
Finally, get the applicant‘s permission to conduct the background check.
In some instances, an application to lease a rental property contains authorization to run a credit check but getting the tenant’s permission in a separate authorization form is a good idea for many reasons.
How to Conduct a Tenant Background Check
Once you have a completed and signed authorization form, it is time to run the background check. Most landlords use the services of a third party to conduct the examination.
Landlords who use a third-party company should ensure the company complies with state and federal laws.
If you decide not to rent to the applicant based on the background check results, or you take a step like requiring a higher security deposit or increased rent because of what you find out on the background check, the FCRA requires you to give the applicant notice.
Before rejecting an applicant based on criminal history, check federal, state, and local laws that may limit what types of criminal history you may consider denying housing, such as the federal Fair Housing Act and California’s Fair Employment and Housing Act.
When evaluating applicants, focus on crimes that may impact the safety of other tenants or neighbors like violent sexual offenses. But, note that many states do exempt landlords from liability for renting to registered sex offenders.
When ready to screen rental applicants, use our builder to create the background check form and other critical documents like your lease agreement.
How to Write a Background Check Authorization Form
Follow the steps below to write a background authorization form.
Step 1 – Obtain Information of Person Giving Authorization
This section is for the person authorizing the background check to provide basic identifying information about themselves.
The person will enter their full name, address, contact information, date of birth, social security number, driver’s license information, and any other names or aliases used.
Step 2 – Note Party Receiving Authorization
Write in the name of the person or entity receiving the authorization to conduct the background check.
Step 3 – State Purpose of Background Check
Write in the purpose of the background check, such as tenant or employment screening.
Step 4 – Gather Signatures
The person giving the authorization must sign the background and credit check authorization form and provide the date of their signature.
Background Check Authorization Form FAQs
Read on for answers to some of the most frequently asked questions about tenant background check forms.
Can landlords ask about criminal records in California?
Landlords can ask about criminal records in California, but there are many restrictions governing the use of criminal background checks. The use of criminal background checks is limited to help minimize disparate effects on certain minority groups.
To comply with these restrictions, you should do the following:
- Do not use criminal background checks only for certain applicants. If landlords conduct criminal background checks, they should do so for all applicants. Using them only for members of certain racial or ethnic groups is illegal.
- Only consider criminal offenses directly related to whether the applicant would be a good tenant.
- You must consider the context of a criminal offense, including any mitigating circumstances and how long ago the crime occurred.
- Consider performing the criminal history check after you have already performed financial background checks.
What background checks do most landlords use?
Most landlords use third-party services to perform background checks. Landlords commonly review credit reports, conduct a public record search to check for civil lawsuits, and check criminal history.
Some landlords perform interviews as part of their background checks. If you interview a prospective tenant, note that special rules may apply depending on your jurisdiction.
What other checks should I do on tenants?
A good tenant background check authorization form permits you to do more than pull credit reports and running a criminal history check.
You can check several other things that may impact whether an applicant will be a good tenant, such as verifying employment. You can also ask for pay stubs, bank statements, and references, among other things.