Landlords Value Rental Histories Over Credit Scores
For those who elect to rent their place of residence, whether by choice or necessity, no statute or law exists that dictates how landlords and property management companies determine which applicants qualify for housing. Records and agencies exist that assist property owners in evaluating an applicant’s personal and financial background. The most common screenings a landlord will perform include:
- credit checks
- criminal background checks
- evictions/rental history
- employment/salary verification
Fortunately for renters who may worry that a bad credit score or other screening will affect their ability to obtain housing, landlord references provide a broader picture of a potential tenant’s reliability. Credit reporting bureaus (i.e. Experian) can also contain rental information in addition to credit history. This information proves helpful to landlords who often prioritize rent being paid on time and rental unit care above an overall credit score. An individual with a history of late rent payments, early lease terminations, and/or evictions has a higher probability of being turned down for a lease than someone who pays rent on time and has a poor credit score.
Even though property owners and management companies can determine the level to which they screen their rental applicants, they must follow the laws regarding running background checks. These screenings must comply with the FCRA, and a rental applicant is entitled to written notice when he or she fails to qualify for a lease. Additionally, the application process must be uniform for each applicant to avoid any discrimination. Property management companies cannot require a criminal background check on one applicant and fail to conduct one on the next.
Individuals who wish to lease housing should ask the landlord or property management prior to consenting to a tenant screening (and consent is required in accordance with law) about which criteria will be evaluated. Each check comes with a fee, and landlords may charge prospective tenants more money to apply if they are running the full gamut of background screenings. Also, research allows tenants to know if certain screenings may automatically disqualify them from obtaining a lease, though individuals with poor credit with solid landlord references still have reasons to feel confident about finding housing, particularly if they can prove solid income.