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Why You Should (Or Shouldn’t) Run a Tenant Criminal Background Check

It might be surprising to learn that approximately 1 in 3 Americans have a criminal record. Many people have minor crimes from years ago, but others have serious charges that might not be from long ago.

As a rental property owner, you have the right to check someone's background to see if they have a criminal record. However, many landlords aren't sure if they should run these or how to use the information to decide on tenants.

Landlords should always run a tenant criminal background check before approving an application. First, you must learn how to run one. Next, you must learn how to reject an applicant based on their criminal history.

Keep reading this guide to learn more about this topic. 

What's In a Tenant Criminal Background Check?

A criminal records check is one form or screening you can perform as a landlord. Additionally, you can perform a credit check to see a person's credit history.

A criminal check is vital as it tells you if a person has a criminal record. A criminal record follows a person throughout their life, and the charges appear when someone performs a criminal background check.

When you perform one, you'll see all the charges a person has ever experienced, including the dates and types of charges. You'll also see if the court dismissed the charges or not. 

Can You Deny an Applicant Based on Their Criminal Record?

Using a thorough tenant-screening process helps you select the right tenants for your properties. However, you must follow the law when choosing tenants. 

The Fair Labor Housing Act is a set of laws that control how you choose tenants. One of the primary things to know is that you can't discriminate against tenants based on certain demographic details.

But, many landlords don't realize that you can't reject an applicant based on their criminal record. You could face legal issues if you deny renting to someone based on this factor alone. 

How Can You Protect Yourself?

There are steps you can take to protect yourself, though. First, you should realize that renting to people with serious criminal histories might be a liability protection issue for your properties. 

Therefore, you might want to develop some guidelines that you follow with every application.

For example, if you have a guideline that states you won't rent to anyone with a criminal history, you can't get in legal trouble as long as you never rent to someone with a criminal record. 

Additionally, you might want to hire a third party to handle your screenings. Hiring someone to do this for you transfers the liability risk from you to the third party. 

Talk to a Property Manager to Learn More

Running a tenant criminal background check is a great way to protect your investments, but you must follow the law when using tenant checks. Would you like some assistance with tenant selection?

You can contact Wolfnest in Salt Lake City for help. We offer property management services and can help you run background checks for your properties. 

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