What Shows Up on a Rental Background Check?


If you’re in the market for a new rental, you may be wondering what kind of information landlords will see when they do a background check on you. What shows up on a rental background check? Will your credit score affect your ability to rent? How about your employment history or criminal record?

In this article, we’ll answer all of those questions and more! We’ll also tell you what can disqualify you as a tenant so that you’re all set when looking for a new apartment.

What Is a Rental Background Check?

A rental background check is a process that landlords use to screen potential tenants. The tenant screening helps the renter in determining if the tenant is worth considering. This check includes looking at the applicant:

  • credit report
  • rental history
  • employment history
  • criminal record

Landlords may also request references from past landlords to get more information about the tenant. We’ll discuss this in detail when we look at what do landlords look for in a background check.

The data for a background check comes from different sources. The credit report is pulled from the applicant’s credit history. The rental history, employment history, and criminal history may be obtained from various public records databases or private companies that collect this information. The majority of the data comes from the three major credit bureaus: TransUnion, Equifax, and Experian.

These credit bureaus in turn get their information from banks, credit card companies, or auto finance companies. They also collect data from various public and court records. Since each credit bureau uses various sources, the information provided by them may vary slightly.

DID YOU KNOW: You should check with your local law and state law to ensure that conducting a background check is legal where you live.

What Shows Up on a Rental Background Check?

Let’s now discuss in detail what shows up when the landlords conduct a background check on the applicants. This is also the information that landlords look to find in a tenant’s background check report:

Credit Report

A credit report includes a person’s credit history and current credit score. Landlords may use your credit score to decide whether to rent you their property or not. A low credit score could mean that the landlord is more likely to experience problems with getting their money on time. Inquiries or collections on your report also put you in a negative light. On the other hand, a good credit score implies that you pay your dues on time and will be able to pay the rent as well.

Rental History

So, what else does a rental background check consist of? Next comes the rental history. A rental history includes your eviction history, late rent payments, or damages that have been caused to the property. Landlords will need your Social Security number to run a rental history check.

DID YOU KNOW: If you have a poor rental and credit history, a co-signer with a better history can help you get accepted as a tenant.

Employment History

Employment history includes information about a person’s past jobs and income. It is an important part of the screening process because you’ll only be able to pay the monthly rent if you’re employed. You will have to submit proof of employment to the landlord and they may also contact your past employers. If you’re wondering how far back does a rental background check go, you should know that landlords usually check to see if you’ve been employed for at least the past two years.

Criminal History

Criminal history includes any arrests or convictions that a person has had. Criminal records can range from minor offenses such as traffic violations to more serious crimes such as felonies. When conducting a background check for housing, some landlords are more lenient while others do not allow a tenant that has any criminal record.

DID YOU KNOW: As per the Bureau of Justice Statistics, 1 in 3 American adults has a criminal record. That’s nearly 30% of the population!

References From Past Landlords

As a tenant, you might wonder how do landlords do background checks. While they can access all your public records, they may also talk to your past landlords. Positive feedback from your past landlords will definitely increase your chances of renting the property.

Key Takeaways

A rental background check is a process that landlords use to screen potential tenants.
Landlords usually gather this information from the major credit bureaus – TransUnion, Equifax, and Experian.
Many also check if the potential tenant has any past criminal records and may talk to past landlords for references.
They look at a detailed credit report, rental history, as well as employment history.

What Can Disqualify You as a Tenant?

Before we take a look at what can disqualify you from renting an apartment, it is important to note that as per the Fair Housing Act, a landlord cannot deny you rental rights on the basis of race, color, religion, or gender, disability, or family status.

Here is what you can be disqualified for:

A Low Credit Score

A credit score of 620 or below is typically seen as a red flag for landlords. This means you may have difficulty getting approved for a lease and could be charged a higher rent or may be asked to deposit a high-security deposit. Most landlords gather information from the three major credit bureaus – TransUnion, Equifax, and Experian. Other may use an accredited tenant screening service to get the information they need.

Negative Rental History

If you’ve had problems with past property managers, such as consistently paying rent late or causing damage to the property, this will show up on your rental history.

Past Eviction

If your eviction records show that you’ve been evicted before, it is a major red flag and can easily disqualify you.

Criminal Convictions

As we’ve already seen when discussing what do landlords look for in a background check, criminal records play a very important role. If your criminal background check shows only a few minor convictions, it’s usually not a big deal. However, violent crimes or drug offenses can disqualify you.

If you’re worried about something in your past affecting your ability to rent, it’s best to talk to your potential landlord. They may be able to give you more information about what will show up on the background check for an apartment and whether there is anything you can do to improve your chances of being approved. Remember, honesty is always the best policy!


If you’re looking for a new property to rent it is important to read up on what does a rental background check consist of. It will show a renter’s credit score, rental history, and any criminal convictions. Many landlords also look at your employment history and may contact your past landlords. It is important to be aware of what information is being shared with potential landlords so you can be prepared and can put your best foot forward when looking for a new place!


What background check do most landlords use?

Most landlords gather information from the three major credit bureaus – TransUnion, Equifax, and Experian. Other may use an accredited tenant screening service to get the information they need.

What do landlords look for on a background check?

Landlords will look at the credit history, rental history, employment history, as well as criminal records when conducting a background check.

What can be revealed in a background check?

If you’re a potential tenant you must know what shows up on a rental background check. It usually includes credit, employment, as well as rental and criminal history.


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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