References to check if a tenant has no prior rental history

Just because a tenant does not have a rental history doesn't mean that he or she is potentially a less qualified tenant than those with plenty of history. First-time renters have often just graduated from college, spent time in the military, or have been involved in roommate situations in which their name was not on the lease.

Although a lack of rental history shouldn't prevent you from renting to a potential tenant, you should still spend some time investigating his or her background by checking work and personal references as well as running a criminal background check. While these references may reveal information that may disqualify a renter with no rental history, they may also reveal that the applicant is a responsible person with many positive traits that would make them an ideal tenant.

Work References
Just because a potential renter doesn't have a formal rental history doesn't mean he or she hasn't been a productive part of the workforce for a substantial amount of time. If you make sure your rental application includes adequate space for an applicant to list employment history and contact information, these contacts can be checked if the potential tenant has a light rental history.

Calling past employers to verify employment history and check job performance can tell you quite a bit about the character of the prospective tenant. Length of employment and gaps in work history can be indicators of the applicant's stability. This is also an easy way to obtain information about income potential and the stability of the person's chosen field.

Criminal History
A criminal history check, which should be run on all potential tenants, is especially important if you're considering renting to a tenant without a rental history. The potential applicant may have not been listed on a lease because he or she spent the last several years in prison. Although records in your state are relatively easy to check, it's often hard to access out-of-state criminal records.

For this reason, it is wise to use a professional tenant screening service that includes an in-depth and nationwide criminal record search of local, state and federal databases that will turn up anything from misdemeanors to sex offenses that may be on an applicant's record. If you do decide to rent to an applicant with a criminal record, it's a good idea to contact his or her probation or parole officer for a personal reference check and to ask about any information that may not have been included on a formal report.

Personal References
If an applicant has absolutely no rental history, it may be a good idea to ask for two to three personal references that you can use to verify the person's character and make a well-reasoned decision about their ability to pay rent on a regular basis. It's a good idea to do this before you agree to move forward with the application process because sometimes the screening process happens before the apartment is even shown.
Ask for personal references from people who have known the potential renter for long periods of time, have worked with them in a professional setting, or are well-established members of the community, such as people who hold political office, run a religious or non-profit organization, or are in leadership positions of some other sort.


More Information
A lot of important information regarding the potential renter's ability to pay rent and be a responsible tenant can also be gleaned from an in person interview. Check out our guide to the best questions to ask a prospective renter for most tips on making sure you get a quality tenant, whether they have a rental history or not.

POSTED January 19 2015 2:16 PM
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