Ultimate Guide on Checking a Tenant’s Rental History


Finding the perfect apartment can be an exciting process, but applying for it and becoming a tenant can be quite a hassle. Your new landlord will most likely want to conduct a background check. What is a rental history check? Stay with us to find out.

What Is a Rental History Check?

If you are looking for a new place to rent, be aware that the landlord will almost certainly want to check your background. Let’s take a look at what exactly a rental history background check is.

Being a landlord or a property manager, getting to understand how a tenant has behaved in their last rentals could be very beneficial because it could be a pretty good indication of how the tenant will behave in the new rental unit. That’s why conducting a renters history check has become a standard procedure in almost every state across the US.

In the rental history, the tenant lists the former addresses, along with contact information for every previous landlord or property manager where you lived at the time. This type of tenant screening is the perfect opportunity for the landlord to decide whether the prospective tenant is the right fit for the place. What’s more, this way the landlord ensures the safety of the others who live in the same building as the tenants.

Unfortunately, no renter’s history report can be relied upon to reveal one’s true colors in full. Everything could go smoothly on a history report, but you can still end up with a problematic renter and not with high-quality tenants, as expected. A bad renter can bring additional issues – late rent payments, safety hazards, etc. If you cannot resolve the dispute in a friendly manner, you may have to report the tenant to credit bureaus or ask them to vacate the premises.

DID YOU KNOW: The two things that scare landlords the most are: payment problems and eviction history, but with the rental history database, they can often find out whether such problems existed in the past.

What Do Landlords Check for in Rental History?

Landlords use tenant screening services to make sure that the prospective tenant is as good as it seems. But, what could show up on a rent history check, and what do landlords check for in rental history?

  • Addresses and contact details of previous landlords
  • Missing or late payments
  • Evictions

To begin learning about their potential tenants, landlords need to have the tenant’s consent. Essentially, it’s a background check that helps landlords to see what type of tenant they are considering.

Some landlords are reluctant to let only rental history determine who will live in their rental unit. Besides checking rental history by gathering information on all of the previous tenant’s rentals and contact information of prior landlords, some decide to check the tenant credit (employment history as well), criminal background, and eviction history report.

DID YOU KNOW: A thorough screening process could be vital when choosing the ideal tenant. Learning how to screen applicants is easy and it helps a landlord determine whether a prospective tenant is a good match. What’s more, if your tenant is a pet owner, conducting pet screening is strongly suggested.

What if You Don’t Have Rental History?

Being able to rent the place you love may be difficult if you have no rental record. While not having a rental history could be a disadvantage, landlords know that there is always the possibility of someone renting a space for the first time, so they tend to keep an open mind. While it may be a bit harder, it’s not impossible to find a rental unit without rental history.

That said, if you have no rent history, the rent history report will come clean. So, the only thing landlords could do in a situation like this is to search for other signs which will indicate that you will be a good renter. More often than not landlords check your credit score or request a reference letter from someone who knows you well to see what kind of a person you are. Here are a few further options:

  • Show Your Financial Plan

When first meeting with your potential landlord, bring the paperwork where you set out the finances for the next three years to convince them that you can stand on your own two feet.

  • Ask for a Personal Reference for Your Next Apartment

A reference letter from your boss could make a lot of difference. That way, the landlord will have a piece of information about what type of person you are even without a rental report. Also, your salary should be mentioned in the letter.

  • Keep Your Search Wide Open and Start Early On

If you have no evidence of your property rental history, you cannot expect the first rental you apply for to accept you. Be aware of the possibility of rejection from a few places due to a lack of rental history.

  • Find a Co-signer

If all of the above fails to convince the landlord to rent you the place without rental history records, convince someone to become a co-signer on the lease, or even better bring the individual along with you when checking the apartment.

DID YOU KNOW: Having no rental history is not considered a red flag, while a prior eviction record, low income, and criminal background are.

What if You Have a Bad Credit Score?

Worried you won’t make the cut for the place you absolutely adore solely because of your bad credit score? A great credit score is an absolute must when deciding to rent a space, and in some cases, credit scores could lead to your application being denied, no matter how spotless your tenant history report is. The perfect score for an individual looking to rent an apartment is considered to be 620 or higher. It might be problematic for people with a score of 300 to 579 to rent an apartment. But fear not, there is always a way to rent with a less-than-stellar credit report. Here are a few tips you should follow in case you have bad credit scores:

  • Look for Places That Do Not Require a Credit Score Check

While many landlords check the tenants’ credit scores, there are instances when the landlord does not want to choose a tenant based on their credit scores. Look for these kinds of property owners.

  • Look for a Less Expensive Rental Unit

Your credit score won’t matter that much if you look for rentals with lower rent. Also, it will take a lot less of your available income.

  • Be Honest About Your Bad Credit Score

Honesty is the best policy, so just be upfront with the landlord about what they might find, and explain the reason behind your bad credit score. It could be a job loss during the pandemic or some medical debt you had to pay. If you are honest from the beginning and show signs that you try your best, the landlord might overlook your score and be satisfied with a rental history background check.

  • Get a Roommate or a Co-signer

If by any chance you see that no one wants to rent you a place due to your bad credit, finding a roommate with a good credit score who is willing to put their name on the lease could solve your problem. Or, if you still want to live alone, find someone who will be your co-signer, meaning you’ll use their credit score to apply for an apartment.

DID YOU KNOW: People with bad credit scores tend to offer to pay more than the rental price or a higher security deposit to compensate for their credit score.

Can You Check Rental History for Free?

If you are wondering whether you can check rental history on your own and for free, there is a way. Thanks to the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) you can check your rental history for free, but you can do it only once a year. To do that, check with the companies that provide such services, and explain to them that you wish to check rental history for free and, according to the law, they should provide the first report for free.

Wrap Up

Rental history checks are meant to provide the landlord with an idea of the potential renter’s behavior, i.e. whether the landlord is making the right choice with the prospective tenant. While a tenant rental history check is not always foolproof, the landlord prefers to have more information rather than less. That’s why it’s a good idea to check your rental history report. Knowing the details that are included in it will make you more confident about the impression you’ll make when applying for the apartment of your dreams.


Does checking your rental history impact your credit score?

In most cases when landlords check your rental history it doesn’t impact your credit score. However, when a landlord decides to do a “hard” inquiry on your credit score, your score decreases by five points. If everything else remains unchanged in the next couple of months, your credit score will go back to normal.

Where can I check my rental history for free?

You can check your rental history report for free at any rental history reporting agency. Thanks to the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA), users get to check their rental history for free once a year and are entitled to free copies.

How do apartments check rental history?

Apartment property managers check a tenant’s rental history just as any other type of property manager would. When conducting a rental history check, they ask the applicant for a written statement listing all previous rentals and the contact information of their former landlords.


Alex is an IT wizz gone SEO gone fire-juggler. We’re not even joking. When he isn’t researching why one personal loan is better than the other and which piece of hardware you should buy next, he’s rollerblading or selling homes (because he does that, too, the smarty-pants).

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