Virtually every landlord does a background check on potential tenants, but there are good reasons a tenant should also do a background check on the landlord. Unsavory landlords can make your life miserable. Before signing a lease, give careful consideration to doing a background check on the landlord.
Rental agreements are very one-sided. Your landlord has details about your credit history, criminal background, and even your bank statements before agreeing to lease the property. As the renter, you have zero information about the landlord and whether they will responsibly maintain the property and respect your privacy.
Thankfully, the age of technology gives you several tools to check your landlord’s reputation before you enter into a lease. Checkpeople is a trusted source for online background checks, and you should be able to garner enough information about your landlord to run a background check. The landlord’s name and address are usually all you will need to be able to do a complete background check.
Other resources to check before you sign the rental agreement
A background check will give you information about the person, and you can also do a check on the history of the property. If the property has a lien against it, or the landlord has a history of litigation against tenants or tenants suing the landlord, beware. A background check will also tell you if your landlord has a criminal history.
To find out how the landlord has treated past tenants, you may need to do a little legwork. If it is a multi-tenant building such as an apartment complex, hang around and talk to people who live there. They are the best resource about how the property is managed and the reputation of the landlord. You can also ask questions like how often the rent is raised and whether they have any privacy concerns.
If it is a single home or duplex, walk around the neighborhood and talk to neighbors. Even if they haven’t rented from the landlord, they can probably tell you about things like how quickly the property turns over, and how well the landlord keeps the place up. As a bonus, you will get a headstart on knowing your potential neighbors and a little about the neighborhood.
See if there is a neighborhood app or social media page and if so, join. These places offer a place for neighbors to connect online, and are a terrific resource for asking general questions about the neighborhood or specific questions about the property you are considering.
Use a search engine and look up both the landlord and the property, and read reviews from prior tenants. Use your personal judgment because people are always more willing to take the time to post a negative review than a positive one. Repeated complaints about similar behavior are probably worth noting.
You can tell a lot by the property’s appearance
It does not take much to make a property look nice at first glance, but pay attention to details. Does the roof look new and well-maintained? Is fencing around the property kept in good repair? Does the exterior show any signs of neglect, such as areas of rot or peeling paint? You also want to check that all safety features are up-to-date and in good working order.
Carefully look over appliances included in the property. Are they clean, newer in appearance, and in working order? If the landlord has not taken the time to address these details before showing to potential renters, then it is probable the landlord does not take pride in the property or in doing their job well.
Interview the landlord at the same time you are being interviewed as a tenant. Have a prepared list of questions that include things like:
· How often is regular maintenance scheduled and how much notice will I be given?
· How soon are requests for maintenance answered?
· Is there an emergency after-hours number?
· Any questions about the lease agreement you may have and any questions about the property should be answered during this interview.
Entering into a lease agreement is a serious commitment. Before doing so, you owe it to yourself to do a thorough job of investigating the property and the landlord. Problematic landlords can make your life difficult and spoil the pleasure of moving into a new home.