Tenants think about many things when renting out a property. But as a landlord, you should also consider several important factors when putting your property up for rent, one of which is your tenant’s criminal history.
That’s because you don’t want to rent out your valuable property without being completely sure that it’s going into good hands.
So as part of the tenant screening process and before anyone moves into your property, it’s advisable to perform a background check and look at the applicant’s criminal records if there are any.
There are certain things to keep in mind when you do so, and this article will discuss everything you need to look out for when renting to tenants with a criminal history.
The importance of proper background checks
A thorough tenant background check is one of the most important steps to finding a reliable tenant and weeding out those who don’t qualify for your property.
With crime rates on the rise, conducting a background check as part of your selection process to identify relevant criminal history is now more important than ever.
Background checks on prospective tenants can help you avoid putting your property and neighborhood at unnecessary risk.
A detailed tenant screening process should also include checking for any eviction reports (to get an idea about their rental history) and a landlord credit check (to judge the financial situation of your tenant).
Reviewing these critical details allows you to have a more well-rounded opinion of your applicants, identify the potential risks associated with renting your property to them, and judge their ability to pay rent.
What you should consider if an applicant has a criminal record
When looking at an applicant’s criminal record, there are a few things that should be taken into account.
What was the nature of the offense?
What type of offense did the individual commit? Was it an offense like larceny or theft, or something involving others? Or was the prospective tenant an accessory/accomplice in a crime?
If you’re unclear about what an offense on an applicant’s criminal record means, consider speaking with a police officer or lawyer for clarification.
Was the person convicted or arrested?
There’s a significant difference between being convicted of a felony and being arrested for a crime. An arrest doesn’t always mean that an individual is guilty of a crime. That’s why landlords shouldn’t reject an applicant based solely on a previous history of arrest.
How severe was the crime?
What was the severity of the offense? Did they do something trivial like stealing chips from a superstore or did they do something serious like shooting someone?
Most of the time, the severity of a crime can also be assessed by looking at the punishment given to the applicant. Did the applicant simply have to pay a small fine or did they need to serve jail time for the offense?
How recent was the crime?
Was the offense committed in the last few years or did it occur decades ago?
If it’s been a long time since an offense occurred and the individual has had a good track record after the incident, it could mean that they have learned from the experience and have reformed for the better.
Was there more than one offense?
Does the individual have only one minor criminal offense to consider or do they have a long list of crimes committed? And if there are several offenses, did they occur around the same period of time or were they committed over a considerably long period?
A long list of offenses, especially if they took place across several years, should definitely be looked at as a major red flag by landlords.
Could other tenants and neighbors be at risk?
As a landlord, it is your responsibility to maintain a safe environment for your tenants and community.
Therefore, it is vital to look closely at the nature of an applicant’s crime. Some types of crimes — like drug dealing, rape, molestation, and battery — might put other tenants at a significant risk.
Can the offense influence the individual’s ability to pay rent?
If the person has no current employment (and their criminal history makes it difficult for them to get a job), you have every right to refuse to rent the individual based on their inability to pay rent.
Can the offense put your property at risk?
Rental properties are huge investments. And having tenants with a criminal history of offenses like vandalism and arson is a potential risk to your property.
How to perform a prospective tenant’s background check?
It’s becoming quite common for real estate agencies to provide personal references for tenant applications. However, since almost anyone can organize a reference, they offer very little protection to landlords.
This is why it is vital to check every applicant’s background details across major tenant databases like the National Tenancy Database (NTD) and Tenancy Information Center Australia (TICA). These databases are privately owned and the information saved in them can be accessed only by members or real estate agents.
When a landlord or an agent reports a tenant for breaching the terms mentioned in their rental contract, the information is archived and saved in these tenancy databases. Read the Residential Tenancies Act of 2010 to find out more about when and why tenants can be blacklisted on these databases.
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