Everything You Need to Know About Tenant Criminal Reports

Research shows that 1 out of 3 young Americans have been arrested. While it’s important to know that not every arrest results in a charge or conviction, a landlord should always include a criminal report – also referred to as a background check – as part of their tenant screening process.

Until a few years ago, landlords could set their screening policies for potential tenants with criminal histories. But in 2016, the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) released a full-length memo directing landlords on how to handle prospective tenants’ criminal background checks. This post looks at a landlord’s legal jurisdictions when conducting tenant screening via criminal reports without violating the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA)

How are Criminal Reports Kept?

Criminal records were once kept in handwritten and typed files that were stored in county criminal courts. Over time, the government introduced modern databases to store this information. There are several levels of criminal record databases available today. These include:

  • Local and county level database – This is the first database storage. It includes court records, police records, and department of correction records of arrested or convicted felons within a county.
  • Statewide repositories – Each state has criminal records information reported from county police, criminal courts, and department of corrections stored in repositories.
  • National Crime Information Center (NCIC) – States report the criminal information in their repositories to the NCIC. This organization stores criminal records in the Interstate Identification Index (III) database.

Broadening the search to the nationwide criminal database is better than relying on county searches. This is because the nationwide database might detect records that would not be present in county or state records.

How Do Credit Agencies Get Tenant Criminal Records?

When local agencies report criminal records to state repositories, the state shares this information with the federal government, which stores the records in the federal database. Landlords can access the database via online tenant screening services and so can the three major credit bureaus – Equifax, TransUnion, and Experian.

What are the Limitations to Searching Criminal Reports?

There are various limitations to searching for tenant criminal reports via state and federal databases.

On the state level, limitations include:

Different Repository Regulations

Which crimes are reported to the state repositories is regulated by each individual state. In states where reporting criminal information is voluntary, there may be missing records in state repositories.

Missing Information

Most state repositories contain criminal records from about 20% of counties. So chances are, some information may not be available in the state repository. If it is, it may be incomplete with only half the information.

On the Federal level, limitations include:

Limited Content

Data from some states and counties may not be available to people in certain jurisdictions. Some states attempt to protect personal information by withholding key information about their people from the public.

Outdated Information

Another negative aspect of nationwide searches is that federal databases may not be current. A search may find some criminal cases that have been expunged, but still show in the database.

Strict FCRA Requirements

FCRA requires landlords not to solely base their decision on whether to take in prospective tenants or not on the information they obtain from the tenant screening test. If a landlord decides not to take in a tenant, they must provide them with a letter specifying the reason for the adverse action.

Stay informed on New Laws That Limit How Landlords Can Use Criminal Report as They Arise

Being a landlord means understanding what the law does, and doesn’t allow you to do. Tenants have special protection from wrongful eviction, harassment, and discrimination. Therefore, it is important to keep in touch with HUD guidelines through their website to know any existing or new laws.

Our tenant screening service can help you find a tenants’ criminal reports. With the right tenant, you can save you and other tenants’ years worth a lot of trouble.

Please note that this is not legal advice. If you have questions any specific legal questions surrounding criminal reports and how you may use them, your lawyer should be able to answer those.

Rental Property Damage and What You Can Do to Protect Your Investment

When you invest your hard-earned money into real estate, you’ll want to make sure you protect that investment. Part of that process is educating yourself on what could eat into your profits. One of the most significant profit-eaters is rental property damage. There’s good news here. Some property damage is entirely preventable. For the damage that is out of your control, there are ways to mitigate the cost. Let’s dive into what causes damage and how to protect your rental investment.

Causes of Damage

There are three main categories of property damage. Each category has different attributes that change how you should respond to the situation. 

Damage Caused by Tenants

You would think that damage caused by tenants would be the top cause of property damage. While they are the ones spending the most time in the unit, most tenants want to feel like they live in a home and they aren’t trying to devalue it by punching holes in the wall. However, accidents do happen, and damage is damage, whether accidental or not. 

Damaged Caused By a Third Party

Although it is rare, it is possible that your property is damaged by a third party, including strangers and people you thought you could trust. One example is damage caused by a burglar trying to break into the home; this damage is usually exterior as long as they don’t make it too far into the house. Another example of third-party damage is a handyperson causing damage through faulty repairs or an accident.

Damage Caused By Nature

Damaged caused by nature can be broken down further into natural disasters like storms and animal damage like termites. The most common cause of property damage overall is wind, but hail, flooding, and fire are all close seconds. 

How to Protect Your Property

There are many ways to protect your property from damage; these are just a few ideas to get you started. 

Insurance

Insurance isn’t going to prevent damage from occurring, but the right insurance will give you peace of mind that your repairs are covered. 

Surveillance

Surveillance is tricky for landlords because you can’t just spy on your tenants, but sometimes surveillance is okay. For instance, cameras outside the house will hopefully prevent break-ins. Work with your tenants to find the best compromise for this solution.

Respond Before it Gets Worse

Prevent a small problem from growing out of proportion by dealing with it immediately. Here are a few examples:

  • Kill mold before it can spread
  • Fumigate if pests are found
  • Fix minor leaks before they can create permanent water damage

Ensure That Safety Equipment is Accessible

A lot of property damage can be prevented if your tenants have the right equipment at their disposal. For instance, every property should have a fire extinguisher in the kitchen to put out cooking fires. Sump pumps, smoke detectors, and GFCI outlets are other examples of equipment houses may need to prevent or reduce the amount of damage that can happen. 

Route Water Away from the House

Water damage can be devastating. It can also, unfortunately, go undetected for a long time and continue to cause damage.

Your property should have multiple ways to route water away from the house. The last thing you want is a sinkhole eating up your property because water has been draining into the foundation for years. 

Regular Inspection and Maintenance

It cannot be stressed enough that an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of the cure when it comes to property management. Part of being a property owner is ensuring that your investment is in good shape, which means that you should regularly inspect it for damage or potential problems that will cause damage. Regular maintenance such as cleaning the gutters and winterizing the property before it gets too cold are also easy ways to prevent damage.

Make Sure You Have the Right Tenants

You may not be able to prevent a hail storm, but you can know that you have trusted tenants. Our tenant screening service will help you make an informed decision when choosing your tenants. Once you have the right tenants, give yourself even more protection by requiring renters insurance to cover the cost of any damages or stolen property.

Not all damage is preventable, but having a plan and responding quickly is the next best solution when damage occurs.