How to Interpret Background Check Address History of Applicant

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When screening tenants for a rental it’s common practice to collect address history on the rental application and then compare that to the previous addresses on the background check.

It’s difficult to say if an applicant will be a good renter based purely on this data…

… but you can certainly spot red flags that accompany problematic tenants.

A table of contents for background check address history:

What is address history on a tenant background check?

Simply put, the address history is a timeline of all the locations your applicant has lived at in their recent history. This information is not only limited to the places where they have rented. It will include any location they have received mail at such as their parents, college, and even a friend’s couch that they live on for a few months. As long as they received mail at the location there’s a good chance they’ll have a history at that address.

Where does previous address history data come from?

Regardless of what package you order from RentPrep, there will be previous address history information included in the report.

It’s a good idea to ask for the three most recent addresses on your rental application.

When you run a background check you’ll get a history of the most recent addresses the applicant has lived at.

This information typically comes from services reselling their data. For example, let’s say your applicant has had a Verizon cellphone for 10 years.

Verizon knows their residence history since they need to know where to send an overdue bill to. Verizon will sell that information to databases that resell that information.

In the case of RentPrep, we buy that data in order to add it to your tenant applicant’s background check.

A SmartMove report is a credit report which comes from Transunion (also a product we sell). The data may come from bills or even the known addresses where the applicant has filed their taxes from.

What does rental history indicate?

When you’re looking at previous rental history you’re looking for signs of inconsistency.

To start, you’ll be looking at their rental application before you run a background check.

You can think of it in the same way that an employer looks at employment history on a resume.

  • What does the current situation look like?
  • What does the previous history look like?
  • Does anything look suspicious?
  • What does the background check say?

Ideally, a landlord is looking for some sort of rental history.

It’s more of a risk to rent to someone who has never rented but this is common with renting to college students.

You don’t want to completely judge a tenant based on their rental history but you want to identify potential red flags…

Red flags and next steps

Step 1: Inspect the rental application

If a tenant applicant has a history that includes three month and seven month stays this could be a red flag.

The majority of leases will start with a one year lease, so anything less than 12 months will raise an eyebrow.

This is why it’s always a good idea (early on in the tenant screening process) to ask the applicant why they’re interested in moving in the first place.

Is it because they’re moving closer to their work or is it because they’re having issues with their current landlord?

Asking good questions will help answer a lot of questions you may have.

Step 2: Make verification calls

Before you run a background check many landlords will make verification calls.

There are three main calls you’ll want to make.

  1. Call the current employer
  2. Call the current landlord
  3. Call the previous landlord

The main purpose of these calls is to verify the information on the rental application and ask good questions.

Do the dates match, is the salary accurate and would the previous landlord rent to them again, etc.

Here you can find more information on how to make tenant verification calls.

Step 3: Run a background check and compare data

Once you run the background check you’ll want to compare the address history provided on the rental application vs. the data you see on the report.

There are different data available to you depending on the type of report you order…

A sample of a rental history report

Here’s a sample screenshot of what the address history looks like on our Basic, Pro, and Platinum reports.

previous address history background check

We’ve highlighted the three dates listed above:

  1. Search Date is simply when this search was done
  2. Is reporting the most recent known address
  3. Reports the second most recent known address

If this was your applicant you’ll want to cross-reference #2 and #3 with the rental history section of your rental application.

Are the dates the same? Are the addresses the same?

At first glance, this report would create a red flag because the applicant is showing two consecutive two-month residencies. Perhaps there is a good reason for such a short stay but it’s worth a conversation with the applicant.

In our Platinum reports, we will make verification calls for you to confirm the data provided by your tenant applicant.

SmartMove Rental History Report

We also offer SmartMove credit reports because many landlords want to see the full credit score.

There are drawbacks with these reports that we will discuss beneath this sample screenshot.

The individual address histories are difficult to see on this full-size image.

For reference, here is a blurred out address history from a recent report.
SmartMove Address History Sample
The only major drawback with the address history is that it shows the “Reported on” date as opposed to a date range provided in the previous sample report.

SmartMove is a credit report and the “Reported on” date is letting you know when that address was reported to the credit bureau. Many times this is updated when the applicant pays their taxes.

The unfortunate part is that it’s not a range so if your applicant lived at an address for a longer period of time… the reported on date could fall in the beginning, middle, or end of that time period.

This isn’t ideal but still gives you an idea of when they lived there.

In Conclusion…

Rental history is an often overlooked but very telling aspect of a background report. You’ll want to make sure your applicant has a good rental history or at least good reason why there might be some red flags.

FAQs Rental History Report

Here are a few common questions we receive about rental histories on background checks:

Dates Overlapping on a Tenant’s Background Check?

Basically, the information on an applicant’s background check comes from lots of different databases. Info gets gathered from courts, companies, cities, counties, states and more. Still, more information originates with employers and previous landlords. Some of the official information will be quite accurate. However, those that depend on human recollection may be generalized, estimated or not recalled correctly.

This combination of records can lead to dates overlapping on a tenant’s background check.

Here’s a screenshot of landlords discussing this question in our private Facebook group for Landlords. I tapped our CEO Stephen White to answer this question.

dates overlapping on a tenant's background check

You can see even more comments on that post by checking it out in the group.

What does current address from date mean?

This is asked on some rental applications and on many job applications. The “current address from date” simply means the date you started living in your current address.