Tenant Screening - Checking Criminal Records
David Borden - June 18, 2015
Determining an applicant’s criminal past is difficult when conducting tenant screening. Most bureaus offer the ability to check most national and state criminal databases. This sounds great, but much of our government infrastructure is pretty outdated technology wise. The bureaus can only provide the information that they get from the local, state, and national authorities. It is estimated that 60% of criminal activity does not make it into a criminal report from a credit bureau or background check. A clean criminal or background check means that there were no records found, not that the applicant has never committed a crime. Ordering these reports is significantly better than doing no diligence at all, but the information contained is definitely not perfect. In order to get all criminal activity one would have to visit the thousands of court jurisdictions that do not report to the national databases. This process is impossible.
Severity of the crime. If an applicant of yours has a criminal record, now you must determine if the crime is severe enough to deny that applicant tenancy. A criminal record shows a history of disregard for the law, property, authority, and even the personal safety of others. Know before you rent to anybody what your stance on criminal records will be and publish it in your tenant screening policy. Generally, those who have committed and been convicted of committing felonies and/or violent crimes are not good risks as applicants. While some people certainly change, many do not.
We recommend discussing with the applicant any misdemeanors to determine if you can get comfortable with the severity of the crime or the likelihood they will commit further criminal activity.