Landlord credit/reference check


    In the past I have always used brokers to rent out the vacant apartments in my building, but I always felt bad about the hefty (15%) broker’s fee the tenants had to pay. Now that Craigslist has made it so easy, I am renting the apt. on my own. My question–how do other landlords run credit checks on prospective tenants? Thanks, in advance, for the advice.

    20 Replies

    1. We offer reports so that you can determine nationwide data from every court in all 50 states including all judgments, evictions, liens, bankruptcies, foreclosures, and criminal records. The key to doing a good background check is to ask your prospective tenant to complete a rental application – there is a free rental application available at and then compare the data that you receive in your tenant background check. A comprehensive tenant screening report will provide you with a complete and detailed address history. A good quality tenant background check will help you eliminate the vast majority of bad tenants.

    2. I think is a big investment when you buy a property. Wich most of tenants dont care. Is very important that when you are deciding who’s is going to be in your apartment to be realy sure of who is going to live there.

      I just think If a tenant wont open the door to a stranger why should I give him access to my apartment. Court in New York takes 2 months to take them out of your apartment if you are agresive in court other than that is can go 6 ,7 months to finish the case.

      When I am checking for a tenant, I prefer to do all the work my self. Why? Realtors are ready for the commision, after they dont care no more, must of the time.

      So the first thing I let the applicants know, that I going to check the housing court Records, Credict check, Landlord referall.

      I elliminate a lot of people this way, Working people are 20 Points in my application. Working people are more responsible and they have less time to be messing around in the house.

      You can check for company that give this services on people backgrounds, on the internet.

      So Landlords i sugest to do your work up front for better results in your investments.

    3. Mopar,

      If I may jump in and give my 2 cents on your questions to slopefarm

      As a LL I like when someone carefully inspects and asks questions about the unit, building, and myself as a landlord/handyman. It means they are making a careful decision and will be satisfyed when they move in. But a prospect who:

      Is aggresive
      Announces the great ways he is going to modify the apartment
      Offers to babysit my kids or wants to be my new BF
      Has a “I’m the greatest tenant alive, you are lucky if you get me” attitude
      Negotiates the rent or pushes for concessions

      Is dinged.

      Demand in Brownstone Bklyn is great enough that if you are fairly priced your apt. will rent to a good tenant in a few days.

      Never rent to someone who is not here legally, on any type of visa, or with an embassy. If they don’t pay the rent or cause damage you will never collect the debt. Either their money is across a border where you won’t be able to touch it, or diplomnaticly immune. If you think a person representing a foreign gov’t will be sure to pay debts you are very wrong. I have friends who made that mistake.


    4. Also, are there liability issues relating to renting to tenants who may be here illegally? Are landlords supposed to check that or is it none of their business?

    5. Slopefarm, interesting post. What do you conclude from the behavior you describe? Is it a positive or a negative if the prospective tenant notices faults, carefully inspects to see if the space works for them, and discusses out loud or whispers?

    6. Sometimes people have no credit because they have only just arrived in the USA. If this is the case, they’ll be able to produce a passport with an I-95 that shows a recent date, it will also indicate the type of visa they have. If the person is here on say a H-1B or an L1 visa, they’re working for a company in a reasonably senior position and the company will probably guarantee the rent. They also may not have received their social security number yet. In my experience, a lot of landlords and rental agents can’t be bothered with these people, which is a real shame because they can be ideal tenants as they’ll pay on time and are less likely to get fired from their jobs.

    7. Slopefarm

      I agree with you, the best thing about showing an aprtment yourself is getting a feel for the prospective renter

      But in my opinion you are taking an unneccasry risk by not running your own credit reports. There are a lot of scammers out there and I think it is a good idea to cover yourself just in case.

    8. ugh. this thread seriously depresses me. i guess im going to be sharing apts for the rest of my life apparently because no one is willing to rent to someone based on good references, steady income and job, and no criminal record. boo.


    9. I’ve gone the route Kate describes and I have felt comfortable doing it, although I see the risks. When you show the apartment yourself, you get a lot of information just watching people look at the apartment. Do they start noticing all the faults? Do you see them start imagining their life in the apartment and whether it would work? Do they discuss things out loud or whisper to each other a lot? Do they complain a lot about the last apartment or landlord? They may also tell you a lot about their current situation. By the time I get to the point of asking for a credit report, I have checked references, spoken several times with the prospective tenants, and I am already pretty comfortable with them. So far I have not been surprised.

      Good luck Cobblekrill. And don’t forget to put “No Fee’ in the ad several times.

    10. In the near future I believe that a tenant background will not matter only they ability to pay. Landlords are going to be cash strapped in a changing economy.

      The What

      Someday this war is gonna end..

    11. Hi,

      Re the poster above who says you can’t go through the big three credit agencies yourself to get a credit report: I have a friend who has the prospective tenant get a copy of their own credit history with Equifax (everyone can get access to their own credit report once a year for free, I believe) and then present the credit report. Now, it sounds like this could be abused — whited out and photocopied or something, unless it’s in electronic form — so I don’t know how safe it is but at least it’s worth knowing about.

    12. I signed up through As an individual owner you need to submit proof of ownership and a few other things to justify why you need a credit report but there is no sign-up fee and there is not a site inspection. For a management company there is. They have sample application forms which I simplified and used.

      You need to sign up in advance and snail mail the forms to them but they send you a login and you get the credit reports online.

    13. I agree with the posters above. The past credit history is invaluable in determining a tenant’s future potential as a tenant.
      I too use you will have to prove that you are a landlord with a deed, etc. You will have invaluable information about credit history, legal history and the like.
      I can’t tell you the headaches I avoided by renting to people who didn’t have 5 accounts in collections or a history of eviction elsewhere. Stuff the tenants tend to leave out in their applications.
      I have asked people point blank, is your credit a problem, and they have responded with a straight face that it is very good. until I checked and found their score to be in the 400’s with numerous collection actions.
      Everyone can make mistakes, but having gone through the housing court system numerous times in NYC, I don’t need to spend another 6 months worth of rental income just to realize what a 20 dollar credit check would have told me.

      Another tip, watch out for couples who are seeking to rent where one is reluctant to put down information. Usually it’s because one has already run their credit into the ground and the other sees their credit as a clean slate ready to run into the ground as well.

      And another tip,watch out for those with no credit history whatsoever. it may indicate a name change or fake ID or something of that nature.

    14. Cobblekill

      None of the supposed advice thus posted is really that helpful, and you cannot legally go directly into any of the big three reporting agencies directly to run a credit report.

      You must use a front end vendor like Tenant Verification Service ( to run credit check for you. Also you need to have them, or any other group that puts a credit report into your hands do a site inspection to make sure the report will be safe from theft. A locking file cabinet in a home office with a lock on it’s door qualifies. This will take about a week, so plan ahead.

      In my experience past credit history is the greatest indicator of the future payment history.

    15. rob, I think there’s indeed a difference btw someone with NO credit and someone with BAD credit, which you’re not making clear. Bit if someone can’t pay their credit cards on time, they’re probably not on time with the rent either.

      I feel ya on the gurantors, tho. Kinda sucks being told you can’t get a place cuz your parents are broke. All the more reason for young people in that position to make sure they establish credit and act financially responsible.

    16. Have the applicant fill out a rental application with references and social security number. You can take $30 from them to run the credit check, you can pay it on your own, or you can take it and then refund it. Then you log onto one of the three credit reporting agencies and run their credit online.

      Check their credit, their references, and verify their employement. Landlords doing their own renting can get much better tenants than rental agencies if they are careful. Some rental agencies are very lax. Some have lied to the landlord and said they checked my credit and references when they did not. Others just had low standards. They went through the motions and that was it. They want their fee. Plus more people would rather deal direct with landlords than go through an agent.

      Also, sometimes landlords will hold open houses and take fees from many people. I don’t deal with landlords like this. I also don’t deal with unlicensed agents posing as landlords on Craigslist.

    17. from someone where who bad/no real credit.. i know people would advise otherwise, but whatever im giving my perspective. if you really LIKE a tenant and they seem responsible, have held down a job, and can clearly pay the monthly rent, etc etc. try to overlook any possible bad or no credit. sometimes so much crap happens to someone early in life, and with all these credit checks it’s just a gigantic burden to get over when looking for an apartment. it’s sad when someone who has had a steady job for like 8 years, in their 30s, but not the greatest credit gets rejected for an apartment in favor or someone who is still in college but get it because mommy and daddy are guarantors. *bitter party of one here i KNOW* just throwing my two cents into it. it’s kind of like, just because someone maybe didnt do well on their SATS but excelled in their classes, extra curriculars, etc getting rejected because of one thing. look at the cumulative picture instead. that person with bad credit probably won’t destroy your property. that person who has mommy and daddy paying their rent? well i’ve been to many of those kinds of parties and it’s not pretty. just something to think about.