4 Ways to Run a Credit Check Without a SSN
4 Ways to Check a Foreign Tenant's Credit and Finances Without a Social Security Number
Foreign tenants, like new immigrants or international college students, can make great tenants. Unfortunately, you may have to work a little harder to adequately screen someone who doesn't have a social security number because there's a good chance that you cannot run a credit check on this person. Below are four ways to screen a foreign applicant's financial history.
1. Search for Credit History Using an Individual Taxpayer Identification Number.
The single best way to screen a foreign tenant's credit is to ask for their individual taxpayer identification number (ITIN). Internal Revenue Service issues an ITIN to any foreign person who intends to pay taxes while living within the United States. With an ITIN number, a potential tenant's consumer report and rental history can be tracked. You should be aware that not all tenant screening services are able to run a tenant screening from this number.
2. Ask for 12 Months of Bank Statements.
Can't find a credit history using an ITIN? Ask for a year's worth of bank statements from your applicant. Then you can examine the statements carefully to see if the applicant pays his or her bills regularly, has written a bad check, and has adequate income for his expenses.
3. Ask for Proof of Income.
A serious applicant should provide several pay stubs or a proof of employment letter to demonstrate that he or she has a solid financial footing. Be sure to call the employer directly to verify the information you receive. You may find that some employers are also willing to cosign lease agreements for their employees.
4. Look for an International Tenant Screening Service.
Consider hiring a company that specializes in investigating and verifying international credit reports and criminal background histories. These companies should be able to provide you with a detailed financial history, especially if the applicant immigrated from an industrialized country. Be prepared to provide the applicant's former addresses, passport information and visa number to the company.
Fairly Screen Tenants to Avoid Discrimination Accusations
You may be tempted to put any foreign applicants under extra scrutiny, but it's actually against the Fair Housing Act to alter the application process for different classes of tenants. It's important to create an application process that accommodates your tenant screening needs for all possible types of tenants. If you want to request 12 months of bank statements, for example, you must request this information from all applicants.
Next, check your state laws before asking any potentially discriminatory questions. Some states, like California and New York, do not allow you to ask about an applicant's citizenship status. Other states allow you to refuse to rent to any applicant that cannot provide proof that he is a legal immigrant. Keep in mind, however, that if you ask for proof from one applicant you must ask all applicants to prove that they are citizens or are legally in the United States.
Finally, don't be afraid to fairly reject unqualified tenants. If one of your rental requirements is evidence of good credit report, and a credit report isn't available for a foreign applicant, you can legally reject his or her application. However, if you regularly rent to students without any credit history, you cannot reject a foreign applicant's application just because he or she doesn't have a credit report.
In the end, a foreign applicant is the same as any other potential tenant. Provide a detailed rental application and be prepared to carefully check all references, and you'll have a good chance of picking the right tenant for your rental unit.
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