Figuring out the best way to go about tenant screening, from deciding what type of tenant you want to figuring out which screening factors matter the most for your property,  is something that every landlord must learn.

But there’s a part of tenant screening that many landlords don’t even think about running: a rental history report! Rental history reports give landlords an idea of where the prospective tenants rented, whether they have ever been evicted or not, and other critical rental details.

While background and credit checks can give you part of the picture about a tenant, their rental history can give you an additional level of insight into what type of client they are.

Let’s talk about how to verify rental history and why it’s worth your time to complete this service.

A Table of Contents for Rental History Report Verifications

Why Tenant Screening Matters

Tenant screening is an essential part of the rental process.

While many new landlords believe that the hardest part of being a landlord is finding people to apply to live in their units, it is more than likely that you’ll have more trouble choosing the right tenants. After all, tenant screening has a big learning curve!

When you screen your tenants thoroughly, you have a chance to discover the following:

  • Credit history
  • Background check
  • Rental history
  • Expected income
  • Expected lease terms

All of this information can give you an idea of what the tenant will be like. Even if a tenant doesn’t have a perfect credit score, the full tenant screening process will help you see if they are on the path to being great renters.

One of the biggest things that new landlords don’t think to check after running a credit report, however, is a rental history verification check! While it’s common for rental applications to ask for information about previous renting experiences, many landlords don’t verify this information.

Without verifying this information, it is possible that you’ll accept a tenant under false pretenses. While nobody likes to think about the fact that a potential tenant could be lying to them, it is a very real possibility.

All About Rental History Reports

Before we get into the details of how rental history reports are and should be verified, let’s talk about what a rental history report really is.

A rental history report is a list of the previous addresses that a prospective tenant rented from and the contact information for the landlord at that time. Usually, you will want to check on the last three years of references.

Most background checks will come with previous rental information like this, but it’s best to get a complete list including contacts from the applicant themselves in case of any database errors. Additionally, it is usually best to have them give this information along with their consent that their previous landlords may be contacted to give a statement.

By doing these things at once, you will have the document of consent easily on file.

When Tenants Don’t Have Rental History

At some point, everyone is a first-time renter!

While you may not want to consider first-time renters because it is harder to verify how reliable they may be, you can look beyond their lack of rental history.

In many cases, landlords will choose to consider information such as income tax return stubs, pay stubs, and co-signed leases to make a comfortable decision when renting to those without a rental history.

Not having a rental history does not necessarily mean that someone won’t be a good tenant. In cases when a tenant has no history, it’s critical that you find a way to look beyond this fact to make a decision about how reliable they will be.

How is Rental History Verified

Merely getting the information about rental history is not enough. Unfortunately, there are people out there who will lie to landlords in order to be allowed to rent a unit out. While you do not want to assume that anyone is lying to you, it is in the best interest of your business to verify the rental history.

To verify rental history, you will want to complete the following steps:

  • Check for gaps.
    The first thing that you should do is check for any gaps in the dates between rental properties. If there are gaps, ask the tenant about it. Then, make sure that they have given you contact information for their most recent rental properties, not the older ones.
  • Call the landlords.
    Use the contact information provided to call the landlords. Ask a number of questions to find out more about how the person acted as a tenant and also to confirm that you are truly speaking to their former landlord.
  • Persist for up to 2 days.
    If the landlord doesn’t call you back, let the applicant know so that they can help get the landlord on the line. If they don’t call back, move on. You won’t always get the answers you are looking for.

Once you’ve talked to the landlords, you can decide about the insight they have given you. It should be fairly easy to tell if they liked the tenant or not. If they seem to have an unfounded vendetta against the tenant, remember to consider this carefully.

The Easiest Way To Verify Rental History

The first step to making your life more straightforward when it comes to verifying rental history is to include the following in your initial rental application:

  • Consent for a background check and for you to call their previous landlord and current landlord
  • Space to write the address & contact information for the current rental unit/landlord
  • Space to write the address & contact information for the previous rental unit/landlord

Still, making sure that all of this information is gathered and then adequately vetted for every applicant can be complicated, and it might be smart to pay for a third-party screening service like RentPrep if you are new to the world of rentals or just overwhelmed.

After all, how do apartments verify rental history when they have a huge number of units? When they probably get hundreds of applicants to their properties a year, going through each one individually would likely eat up all of the landlords time to handle their business.

The tenant screening services provided by a company like RentPrep include everything from running the proper reports and then directly verifying the rental history with previous landlords. A certified screener does all of this work so you can be sure that the information they gather is reliable.

Additionally, this service helps with tenant screening beyond rental history verification. It also helps to ensure that you are only looking at information that you are allowed to use to make your decisions, so you are given a streamlined and legal set of information about each applicant.

Making your final decision couldn’t be made easier!

Conclusion

It’s not always easy to know the best way to decide who are the best choice to be your new tenants, but using the right tenant screening can make the process easier. Using a service that offers intuitive rental history report verifications can be a big help.

Remember, rental history verification helps to:

  • Ensure the tenant isn’t lying
  • Show their reliability
  • Give you a chance to find out about any evictions
  • Learn more about their status

Your experience as a landlord is largely decided by the tenants that live in your units, so take the time to find tenants that are worth it. They’ll improve your bottom line. Trust us; it’s worth it!

About the author

I believe the biggest mistake you can make in life is not learning from them. I've been a landlord since 2009 and still learning all the time.