It’s a landlord’s prerogative whether they perform a background check on you. Landlords can check your credit score, criminal history, and even your rental history. They may ask your permission to perform these checks, but they aren’t obligated to do so. Therefore, if you’re looking for a new place to rent, or if you’re about to renew your lease, there are a few things you should do to ensure things go smoothly.

Do Landlords Do Background Checks? - references, landlords, credit score, check, background

Do a Background Search on Yourself

Forewarned is forearmed. If you know what your landlord will find out about you, you can plan how you will deal with the situation. The best way to do a background check on yourself is to use a background check service like Check People. Landlords commonly use these types of services. They often include information about your criminal history, financial information, personal assets, and employment history.

Prepare Documents to Support Your Application

When deciding who to rent an apartment to, landlords want assurances that you will be a good tenant. Unfortunately, most landlords don’t have access to crystal balls, so performing a background check is the next best thing. To help prove that you will be a good tenant, you should provide your landlord with documentation that will help them conduct a background check and show your dependability. Therefore, you should present the following documents with your rental application:

  • A copy of your photo ID (drivers license or passport)
  • Letter of employment
  • Copies of your last two W-2 forms
  • Copies of your previous two pay stubs
  • Copies of your last two tax returns
  • Copies of your prior three bank statements
  • References from previous landlords
  • Professional references

Check your Credit Score

Landlords perform credit checks to determine whether you’re likely to be a dependable tenant and pay your rent on time. The Fair Credit Reporting Act ensures that you get a free credit report every year from Equifax, Experian, and Transunion. There are a number of services that will offer you a free trial subscription and free reports, but is the site that’s officially authorized by federal law to give you this information.

You must check your credit report carefully. You want to be on the lookout for any mistakes, such as accounts that belong to a third party. You also want to make sure that your credit history is accurate. If you suspect that you may have been the victim of identity theft, you can order a full background check from providers such as and

Compile a List of References

Your landlord wants to rent you an apartment. That’s their job. However, part of their job is also making sure that they rent to the right people. You can help your case by compiling a list of references. This should be a list of people who can vouch for your character, your record of employment, and your dependability. However, before you give this list to your landlord, make sure to contact these people first and ask if it’s ok for the landlord to contact them. You don’t want anyone to be caught by surprise, especially if you expect them to give you a good reference. Some good people to use as references include your current employer, colleagues, coaches, and mentors. Try to avoid using people who have a personal relationship with you, like your parents or partner, as landlords may see their statements as biased.

Understand Your Rights

Under federal law, landlords are prohibited from choosing or rejecting tenants based on race, color, national origin, disability, religion, sex, familial status, or handicap. Furthermore, your landlord must give you notice either verbally, in writing, or electronically if they are refusing your application or charging you more rent because of something in your background check. This notice must contain the contact information for the company that provided the report. Additionally, the notice must tell you how you can correct inaccurate information and how you can get a copy of the report.


It might seem intimidating to have someone looking into you, especially if it might affect your ability to rent housing. However, if you know what landlords can expect to find ahead of time, you can arrange to explain anything that might be questionable. Furthermore, if you prepare references and employment documentation, this will go a long way to showing that you are a dependable tenant. Finally, make sure you know your rights, so you aren’t unfairly discriminated against.